January 27th, 2009

Wanaka tree

A matter of living memory

Today, here in the UK, it is Holocaust Memorial Day. I like the idea that we choose to mark and respect, remember and honour this terrible period of history. It's not glorified or over-done, just polite reflection and respect. These things should be remembered and the lessons learned.

Also, and this is very poignant for me now, today is the sixty-fifth anniversary of the breaking of the Seige of Leningrad. I find it very difficult to believe that such a thing happened in the wonderful city I visited last September within the living memory of many of the people who live there. It was an appalling event. The city was besieged for almost 900 days and this resulted in the deaths of around one and a half million people. I find it difficult to get my head around those kind of numbers. I can only imagine the hardship, destitution and terror that must have been part of the daily lives of those innocent people caught up in it.

It seems to me that, here in the west, we forget (or never fully understand) what the people of Russia went through during that war. The suffering and sacrifice made is equal to, if not greater than, that suffered by Western Europe at the same time. No-one in the west seems to acknowledge what the great Russian people went through. I do, and I continue to.

Between where I was staying in the middle of Saint Petersburg and the airport there is an enormous war memorial; reading about the siege recently I can't help thinking that perhaps it isn't quite big enough or grand enough.

To my friends from that great city - you are always in my thoughts, but today more than ever I am with you in spirit, out of respect, admiration and the sheer exhilaration of knowing you.
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