When I came to NZ, the remembrance of war during ANZAC Day was something new to me. I was studying Peace and Conflict Studies and I had the opportunity to learn about its meaning and history. I met people whose parents, grandparents or relatives went to fight in a far away war, and many never came back. The ritual of commemorating war is a way of collectively making sense of those losses.
In my country, remembering war is a significant part of our culture, too, but the narratives are different. I come from the North-East of Italy, a place the world chose to fight its world wars. Our river Piave was red with blood, my grandmother used to say when we went hiking in summer.
In Italy, we do not have a day to commemorate the Great War, a war won after much sacrifice. Instead, we have a day to remember the end of World War II, the war we lost. Our Liberation Day happens to be April 25, too. During this day, we remember the horrors of war, not its glory. In school, they teach us that the rejection of war and fascism is the foundation of our Republic.
This narrative went hand in hand with the stories of war I have heard from my family since I was a child. My beloved grandmother features prominently in them, even though she was not a soldier. I grew up watching her hands shaking at every sudden noise. She grew up during the fascist regime in a family that opposed it openly and silently. Her father was sent to the frontline when he was barely sixteen years old. He tried not to kill, because he saw the Germans as human beings, too. He hated war and refused to join the fascist party. My grandmother remembers her family’s everyday resistance through the punishments at school when she stayed home to avoid the parades.
Nonna told us about the bombs dropped by Americans, and the people hanged by the Nazi. She told us about the Germans ‘guests’ in their homes. Most of all, she told us about the hunger, misery, and fear. This is the everyday face of war. As Sylvester argues, ‘war is about injuring bodies’. It may sound obvious, but then why do we keep forgetting it? If we already know it, why do we still allow it to happen?
War is not a thing of the past. I like how The National Centre if Peace and Conflict Studies commemorates ANZAC Day, every year, by remembering ALL the victims of ALL wars. Soldiers and civilians. Wars of yesterday and wars of today. Every single life matters. Let us remember war today and everyday by committing to end all wars and violence.
Monica Carrer, PhD
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