Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: War and Peace (not about the book) (07/07/11)
TITLE: Nowhere To Go
By Fiona Stevenson
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Looking back over a lifetime I thought about the wars that had influenced my life.
The Second World War took the men of my family to North Africa, the Middle East and Italy. I was starting school. Many years later, after my father’s death, we found among his papers a letter I had written to him at the time. A little girl letter, asking if he was well, proud of being able to write. When he returned we were sunning ourselves on the back porch. We saw a stranger walking up the path toward the house. Sunburned, with curly black hair and a fierce ginger handlebar moustache. Granny said, “It’s Matt! No, it’s Phil – no, it’s Matt!”
The catch-cry was “Peace in our time!” As an eight-year-old living in Natal I had only known peace. Daddy sang the wartime songs and told us funny stories. It was some time before I learned of the loss of life, the devastation of the bombing, the fear and the heartbreak. I read the stories, felt the fears and cried the tears. And still I didn’t really understand that a cessation of hostilities didn’t mean that we had peace. And I grew up in a changed and changing world.
There was a family disagreement. Not a feud. It involved only a brother and a sister who didn’t speak for many years. But it was serious enough. Other family members knew not to involve George if Gladys was invited, and vice versa. When I asked Mother what the disagreement was about, she shrugged. No one remembered.
It was holiday time. My husband saved his leave for three or four years before taking a long leave when we visited all the widely separated rellies in a long and satisfying safari. Usually Aunt Gladys was the first stop on the way. Widowed, with a small house in a major city, she was always welcoming. Her garden was her delight and rightly so, bright with flowers it provided her with vegetables and fruit. One year the peaches were in. As Auntie filled a basket to send us on our way she added a few ‘special’ ones. As she did so she remarked quite casually, “Uncle George always liked those peaches the best.”
In the car I removed the special peaches from the basket, setting them aside. Our second stop was with Uncle George. Handing him the little bag of peaches I said, “Auntie Glad sent these for you. She said they were your favorites.” He looked surprised. “Did she really?” “Of course.” Brushing the subject aside I went on to messages from my mum and stories of our journey. A few years later I took Mum to visit Auntie Glad and together with an older sister we went on to celebrate his birthday with Uncle George.
When our eldest son was born a neighbor remarked that too many boys were being born – “Within fifteen years or so we will be at war!” Our two eldest sons served as medics in that war. A civil war. Our country was divided. The world around us considered it a just war. They called us rebels. They called us racists.
They said that it was a war between black people and the whites that oppressed them. But they didn’t live in our houses. They didn’t drive on our roads. The uprising was unsupported by many more than half the black population. The world did not believe that.
For ten soul-searing years we worked and wept. Black and white together, we worked and wept. And laughed. We shared the stories and the pain, and we buried our dead side by side. And when the time came we bowed our heads and left our friends. Not yet refugees, we were immigrants. A fellow-workman, a black man, said, “You can go but what about us? We have nowhere to go.”
We bowed our heads and prayed together as we had done many times. We prayed for a cessation of hostilities, for the people who remained to be able to rebuild their lives and their country. We prayed for men and women to make their peace with God. There is no peace in a cessation of hostilities. There is no peace in victory. There is only peace in surrender, the total surrender of a life to God.
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