Whilst I’m still quite happy to write some content on this blog before it does what most blogs do and dies down, I thought it might be good to raise another bête noire of mine.
Talking about the bloody war.
No. It wasn’t a glorious moment for us. Or for anybody.
And Boris. Of course, does it like all the others.
And he needs to stop it. Like many people of his age, he grew up at a time when Sunday afternoons and many an evening featured some war movie full of plucky Brits doing plucky things in either cut glass accents or dubious early mockney.
Wars are horrible, horrible things. If you’re lucky you get to live somewhere where the other side doesn’t turn up looking to give you a lesson. If you’re unlucky that’s the end of your whole family. If you’re really unlucky, you survive but only after seeing your children gasping their last breaths as the blood drains from their broken bodies.
But you knew that. And so does Boris Johnson. So why in hell does he choose to bring it up? In fact why do so many Brexit campaigners and a fair chunk of their supporters keep doing it?
“Well we survived the war!” will screeches some harridan whose only experience of a war was through said Sunday movies. She’ll stand there, staring at me, seventy-five years old, no memory whatsoever of her one wartime year. Well we did. We survived. But millions of people didn’t. They died messy, horrible deaths. “We survived the war” is not an expression that exists in Poland.
And the likes of Farage just bang on and on with fighting talk, even suggesting he’d don khakis and a rifle if he needed to. Fucking idiot. He’s so tough and brave he’s scared of a milkshake. No guts, the massive coward, but he’ll take the loss and sacrifice of others for his own gain.
In other countries where they have wars but actually got invaded their war movies are rather different. The sorrow is palpable. I grew up in England. But I also was lucky (unlucky?) enough to have grown up elsewhere too. War movies in the rest of Europe are generally much less about the great heroes, and they cover pain and loss in a way that is hard to explain to a pure bred Brit. I guess that’s my problem as a citizen of nowhere – I don’t get irony quite the same way either, eh?
So here’s a song and trailer from the film, Prawo i pięść, which is famous in Poland. The film itself is almost a Western in concept, but with a very different origin. Listen to the tune, and look at the train.
It’s a pretty song, with a sad lilt to it. The clip you see is a train load of people being moved after the war during the great movements that followed as land was redistributed. This was also the premise for the story.
And the lyrics. At first you don’t spot it…It’s a song of hope, but full of sadness of what went by in the years before. It had been pretty brutal in parts of Poland. The woman in the striped shirt from a concentration cap isn’t there because the war was a jolly adventure. She probably lost her family. So I’m not going to copy and paste the translation in full here, because I believe in copyright. But there’s a few lines that hit me:
The sun will embrace us
between it's hands.
And look: the ground is heavy with blood,
it will bear fields of wheat
“The ground is heavy with blood.”
OK. Imagine the fields around your town full of the blood of your old friends and family? Moving on…
The women will welcome us
under their roofs.
And look: they will laugh through their tears.
Once again someone will play for us to dance to.
in a day, in two,
in a night, in three,
though not today.
It talks of recovery and hope for love once more. There’ll still be tears. And it’ll take time. It won’t be soon. There is a lot of pain to get through.
And then this…
Children will be born for us.
And look: they will laugh that we
still reminisce this vile time,
a time of storms.
At first I was all… yeah, and? Then a Polish person corrected it slightly for me and told me “It says ‘our new children will be born.’ They had all died, you see.”
Our new children. A translation subtlety, but an important one.
Like I said… people whose parents and grandparents lived in the battlegrounds of WWII never say “We survived the war.” And English people who actually fought in WWII don’t seem to say it either, except perhaps as a dark joke.
So every time Farage, Johnson and all the other blaggers invoke the war, that’s the memory they’re pissing on.