Who pays the price of war?
In conversation with a friend a day or two ago, I was reminded of a series of plaques I first saw quite some time ago on the Wellington Waterfront. They commemorate the arrival of 732 Polish children by ship on their way to Pahiatua to experience a different kind of life to one they had become accustomed to during the war. I remember standing reading their story with tears running down my face.
It made me stop and think about the price of war – who actually pays for it? For these 732 children it was momentous and advantageous – to move from an area that had been ravaged by war to one that was untouched. And many of these children stayed here in NZ and became citizens.
I think about my dad who enlisted in the RAF before the declaration of war, even though he worked in a protected industry. He was ~20 at the time. The next 10 years of his life was spent at war and taking part in the clean up in Europe after the war. By the time he mustered out of the RAF he was in his 30s. His next move was to emigrate to NZ under an assisted package deal for ex-servicemen. He was 40 when I was born. I never ever saw my dad as anything but old. War stole his youth, his 20s – that time when we get to experiment with life and figure out who we really are. I only knew my dad for 30 years – war stole him from me – today we’d say he was suffering from a combination of delayed PTSD & Alzheimer’s.
And let’s not forget the millions of innocent people who have died over the years simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or were from a culture that was perceived as being wrong or ‘dirty’, or who ascribed to a religious belief contrary to the beliefs of those in power.
War is a dirty business. Some would say it’s necessary. Maybe I’m too naive – but I wish people were better at debating and negotiating and compromise and listening and accepting. Maybe then we could live in harmony.