Publish date 25-03-2021
Peace is not just the absence of war, but when the bombs do not fall, the buildings remain standing and people no longer die we tend to take it for granted. Even European peace, the heart of a process that began on the ruins of the Second World War, the political miracle of enemy countries that after so much blood decided to say: enough! Faded memory? Rhetoric? Alibi? Maybe, but there is a fact: if entire generations of young people have managed to grow safely it is thanks to that intuition that sprouted in the darkness 75 years ago.
Hans and Sophie Scholl, the boys of the White Rose, could have seen a united Europe. With other university friends and a professor, they were the soul of the Munich group that opposed Nazism without violence. They were sentenced to death and guillotined on February 22, 1943. Their guilt was that of having written and disseminated leaflets against Hitler. In their early twenties, they died for their ideals, for their faith. "Strong in spirit and tender in heart", their motto to be preserved, not forgotten, spread ...
They could have seen a united Europe Ernst Lossa and children like him. Ernst was the eldest son of Anna and Christian, a family of street vendors of the Jenish ethnic group who made a living wandering around the Bavarian and southern German cities. Registered by the Nazi regime as gypsies and street vendors, they were divided. Ernst locked up in an orphanage at the age of 5 with his two younger sisters, his mother who died of tuberculosis, his father was deported and killed in the extermination camps. Ernst, who grew up amidst abuse and violence and branded as irrecoverable, was sent first to a reformatory and finally to a psychiatric hospital. He will be mercilessly killed in 1944 in the Irsee clinic with two injections of morphine and scopolamine. He was 15: an innocent victim of Nazi eugenics.
They could have seen a united Europe Jan Palach and his friends. He was 21 and great ideals of his age about him. A philosophy student at the University of Prague, he had enthusiastically welcomed the reform season of 1968, Czechoslovakia's attempt to free itself from the Soviet communist yoke. They called it the Prague Spring, a movement that was later repressed in blood with the military invasion of Warsaw Pact troops. Palach and his friends felt their backs to the wall and decided to protest in the most striking way for freedom and democracy.On the afternoon of January 16, 1969, Jan reached Wenceslas Square, stopped in front of the national museum and set himself on fire after sprinkled the body with gasoline. A few days later, Josef Hlavaty, Jan Zajíc, Evžen Plocek did the same.
He could have seen a united Europe Jerzy Popiełuszko. He was a young Polish priest, the son of peasants, very close to the social demands and freedom ignored by the communist regime. In the early 1980s, he embraced the cause of Solidarność, the first autonomous trade union born despite the oppression of the dictatorship. In his homilies, Don Jerzy spoke clearly and began to receive pressures and threats which, however, did not stop him. On October 19, 1984, he was kidnapped and beaten by three interior ministry officials, who then threw him alive in the Vistula waters. His body was found 11 days later. Don Jerzy was just 37 years old. Today he is revered as blessed.
They could have seen a united Europe Admira and Boško. They were 25 years old. She is Muslim, he is Serbian. At school they had met and chosen each other. They were convinced that love was the answer to the madness that had gripped their city: Sarajevo. Ethnic hatreds did not exist for them, people counted, the continuous exchange between cultures and experiences. They continued to believe it even during one of the most terrible sieges of the twentieth century: the naked and defenseless Bosnian city, snipers everywhere on the surrounding mountains. Admira and Boško already dreamed of a future together. They decided to flee Sarajevo to return perhaps after the war was over. On May 19, 1993 they tried to cross the Vrbanja bridge, which connects the Grbavica district with that of Marin Dvor. They were also affected. First Boško, who died instantly. Then Admira, seriously injured but able to drag herself towards her love and die in her arms. Today they are remembered as Romeo and Juliet from the war in the former Yugoslavia..
Hans, Sophie, Ernst, Jan, Josef, Evžen, Jerzy, Admira and Boško are each of us, if only we were born in a different era. Without Europe.
NP January 2021