Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The words of war

I'm pretty good at holding grudges.

Cut me off in traffic, jump ahead of me in a queue, or commit other "major" acts of provocation and you've pretty much made an enemy for life.

I'll say "no, that's fine".  But it's not.

So while I'm still struggling with acts of forgiveness for minor transgressions, it's pretty humbling and startling to come across true acts of forgiveness for what could almost be seen as unforgivable.

This is one of the things which struck me the most when I visited Anzac Cove.

ANZAC Cove and its harsh landscape

Near one of the many cemeteries for Australian and New Zealander soldiers, there's a memorial with a 1934 quote from Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, an officer in the First World War and later Turkey's first president.

Countries united by grief: a message from Ataturk

"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives...
You are now living in the soil of a friendly country.  Therefore rest in peace.  There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us when they lie side by side here in this country of ours...
You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace, after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well."

Anzac Cove's Beach Cemetery

Looking at the harsh terrain of the Gallipoli Peninsula, trying to comprehend the vast numbers of soldiers from both sides who lost their lives, this quote blew me away.

Mass graves for ANZAC soldiers looking out over the sea

That a country, which had faced an enemy invasion just two decades earlier, could not only forgive but embrace that same enemy seemed remarkable to say the least.


Perhaps it's indicative of the other great lesson a visit to Anzac Cove gives: there are no real, outright winners from war, only a side with less casualties than the other.

Beach Cemetery at Anzac Cove
The grave for World War I hero John Simpson (as in Simpson and his donkey)

Even after nearly a century, the Gallipoli Peninsula still tells the story of the 25 April 1915 and the months that followed:  the sheer cliffs ANZAC soldiers "held" for months in horrible conditions;  the trenches showing how close the two sides were; and the mass graves of soldiers from both sides.

Trenches at Gallipoli

There is no doubt about the determination, loyalty and bravery the ANZAC soldiers displayed at Gallipoli.
Now, those ANZAC soldiers who lost their lives so far away from family and friends lie side-by-side with Turkish soldiers who also never made it home.

Ataturk's sentiments acknowledges the unity that comes from sharing similar experiences, such as the profound grief and loss that occurred at Gallipoli.

Lest we forget.

Lone Pine Cemetery and Memorial

No comments:

Post a Comment