November 11, 2014 marks both the beginning and the end of the First World War and, although I find it hard to say anything truly meaningful about this bloodshed that plunged the world into the most violent century in human history, I saw something I wanted to share, something simple and sweet and, created as it was in the midst of violence, utterly heartrending.
As the centenary of the beginning of the war, 2014 has been replete with stories, photos, exhibitions, and the ghosts of WWI. I walked through one of these exhibitions the other day, saddened and stupefied. There was a video of the first cases of shellshocked soldiers, convulsing so wildly that they could barely walk in the quiet hospital garden because their bodies couldn’t forget the ceaseless bombardments and explosions while in the trenches. Walking through the section on the home front, I saw the games, textbooks and school supplies that glorified the war and patriotism. It was total war and even children were not exempt. It was a chilling thought.
And at the end of the exhibition, I stopped before a miniature toy stove. Reading the caption, I learned that the toy stove was fashioned out of scraps of metal by a soldier on the battlefront for his daughter at home. For me, this little stove was the most powerful and heartbreaking piece in the exhibition. I imagined a soldier, a grown man, frightened out of his wits. I imagined him collecting the remnants of ammunitions to recreate the love and comfort that tarried around the hearth, lest all the bombing blast them out of his memory.
Lest we forget.