17 November 2016

Freedom, Latvia

Latvia has a number of commemorative days to mark its historical struggle for freedom, but November 18th is the most important of all. Ninety-eight years ago, the country proclaimed itself an independent republic despite ongoing military action. After the dark days of Soviet occupation, full independence was once again established in 1991. The Proclamation of 1918 remains the proudest national holiday.

Each part of the small country plans special joyful activities. In Riga various parades and festive events take place, notably focused on the Freedom monument. Evening torchlight processions and fireworks complete the celebrations.

Pray that Putin keeps his hands off this prospering, vibrant land on the Baltic Sea.

Photos: BDM 2013
© 2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman

09 November 2016

Remembrance 2016

In 2015 I was privileged to visit another of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries ― Groesbeek in the Netherlands. In years past, I had spent a day at El Alamein in Egypt.

Groesbeek is located near the German border in a lovely, hilly section of Gelderland province. Most burials here are of Canadian soldiers and airmen who died in the Battle of the Rhineland (1945). The Dutch have a special, continuing affinity with Canadians; my visit was shortly after the celebrations of their annual May 5th Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag).

On the memorial wall: Pro amicis mortui amicis vivimus (We live in the hearts of friends for whom we died). Part of the memorial wall:
"These walls bear the names of the soldiers of the British Commonwealth and Empire who fell in the advance from the River Seine through the Low Countries and into Germany, but to whom the fortune of war denied a known and honoured grave. 30th August, 1944 - 5th May, 1945."

We spent a long time in the rows of white markers, paying tribute to the dead. Most were identified but some were not. Many graves had touching messages from Dutch school children. Sometimes the family of the man provided an inscription. One stood out for me (see below the cross):

"Some day we'll understand"

Do we – yet? Will we ever understand such carnage? Will we ever understand how to avoid destroying each other?

© 2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman