As Remembrance Day draws near and with it the first anniversary of the publication of my book Being Krystyna-A Story of Survival in WWII, I find I have been reflecting on these past twelve months and all the changes I’ve seen. One of the saddest events of the past year was the death of Krystyna herself in April, when she died peacefully in her sleep at her care home surrounded by her family. Many other members of her generation are now leaving us so that fewer remain to tell of their wartime experiences. It makes me realise all the more how important it is to record their memories for posterity while there are still survivors left to give us their first-hand accounts of what can happen if we allow evil people to dominate our culture.
In the UK we have seen an increase in racial hatred and bigotry since the UK voted to leave the EU in June 2016. In the USA we have seen the rise in popularity of the alt-right movement with its white supremacist ideology that is nothing more than a resurgence of Nazism. In Europe, too, far-right opinion holds sway over a large number of the population and sadly, it is apparent that stories like Krystyna’s are just as relevant now as they have ever been. Krystyna herself always dreaded that the Nazis would return and it seems that her fears are being realised. Humanity never seems to learn the lessons of history. The Great War was referred to as the war to end all wars. It wasn’t.
Events on the world stage are one thing but there are millions of individual untold stories and each one is a life lost. So many people have died in wars and we will never know them or what they endured. It’s impossible to remember them all but we all know someone personally who has been either a casualty of war or affected by it. On Remembrance Day I will be thinking of my uncle Alfred who was killed during WWII aged 21. I wish I could have met him. If those of you who are reading this know of someone, past or present, who was a tragic victim of war, I hope that on Remembrance Day you will take a little time to remember them and honour their sacrifice.