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In 1933, I was born in England, so almost six years old when the Second World War began.
During our first air-raid (sirens wailing, the heavy throb of the bombers’ engines, searchlights criss-crossing the night sky, AckAck gunfire, bombs shrieking down before exploding, fires flaring), my mother clutched the baby in one arm and, the toddler grabbing at her skirt, with her other arm dragged the sofa away from an interior wall to create a small space into which we all four huddled.
It would not have provided any protection against a direct strike but perhaps some from debris from a near hit. I thought: ”Up there are men I don’t even know who are trying to kill us. This can’t be right.”
I still think that and have spent much of my life trying to prevent it happening to other children. Many years later, in conversation in Dresden with a woman of similar age to mine, I found her in perfect agreement.
Circumstances have led me to live most of my life in Canada but also for lengthy periods in other countries: The U.K., the U.S., Russia, Germany, and Greece. In every one of them most of the people I met shared my abhorrence of war, strongest in those with the most immediate experience of it through invasion — notably Russia and Germany. Yet, here we are again. People forget.
So where are we now? Decades of struggling for dominance rather than working for peaceful co-existence reach their inevitable conclusion. Armouries of the major powers swell with enough lethal devices to send us all to Kingdom Come several times over. (Meanwhile, the common threat of climate destruction goes relatively unaddressed.)
Do the rulers on either side of the present conflict in Ukraine have guts and wisdom enough to avoid catastrophe? Wisdom, the willingness to see each other’s point of view and enter into honest negotiations, would have prevented this war and the horrors now being endured by those engaged in it on either side. It was Winston Churchill, that seasoned old war-horse, who said “Jaw, jaw, jaw is better than war, war, war” and he was right.
It is past time to cool the martial rhetoric that now poisons our politics and media, to move away from the battlefield and into the conference hall where, with honest debate, we may achieve a livable solution, save measureless human suffering ... and perhaps co-operate in saving the planet?
Margaret Clare Ford