As most of you will know, yesterday marked the 100 year anniversary of the beginning of World War One. As part of the centenary ‘celebrations’ (if they can be called that), I was involved in helping promote the Letter to an Unknown Soldier project. This was a UK-wide (and, in the end, world-wide) endeavor which asked participants to imagine the letter being held/read by the Unknown Soldier statue situated in Paddington Station. Over the last couple of months, over 20,000 entries were submitted as part of the project, which aimed to create ‘a new kind of war memorial – one made entirely out of words’. Many famous writers and celebrities added their voices, of course, but I was particularly pleased to see entries from poets I knew, and other people of the local area. These included S J Alexanderson, Will Ford, Cathy Dreyer, Michelle Wright, Lee Prosser, Julie Pritchard, my brother Michael Oliver-Semenov, my sister Lindsey Oliver, and Louvain Rees. Louvain’s letter was chosen by BBC Radio 5 Live for possible inclusion, too. You can also read my contribution, here.
Today, just one day later, another anniversary takes place, and writing itself is the reason, rather than the response, to this one. 70 years ago today, at just 15 years old, during the Second World War, Anne Frank was arrested after an anonymous tip-off was given to security police. She and her family had been hiding in a secret annex behind her father’s house for 2 years. Her last diary entry was written on 1st August, just a few days before the arrest. Only Anne’s father, Otto, survived. Anne herself died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, just a few weeks before the camp was liberated.
I thought you might like to read this article that was in the Telegraph newspaper today, which has some further details on this, as well as the final diary entry itself (at the end of the article). This is the point in my blog at which I usually write ‘enjoy’ – but with a young girl cruelly cut down before reaching adulthood, shadowing the many young soldiers killed in WW1 and WW2 as well, the only thing that can be savoured, really, are the bitterly sweet, self-aware words of a reflective young writer who never got the chance to “become what I’d like to be and what I could be” just because there ARE “other people in the world”, and too many of them choosing violence and hate over their opposite.
And yet, even amidst the fear and terror, here was a young girl who still believed that “everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!”
I truly feel that we, the living, can best honour the dead, the dying, the murdered, the forgotten, by proving this – by living each day as fully as we can, and by becoming the best human beings we can possibly be. As well as writing, marching, protesting when the innocent are attacked, instead of simply standing by, this is the best answer to the world’s violence that I can imagine.
With many thanks to Cheryl Beer for this lovely song.