Saturday, 2 November 2013

Sarajevo - again!

It's the stream of consciousness thing or something like it that causes me to think further about that Balkan city.  Or perhaps not so much about the city itself, but something that sprang from an event which occurred there a little more than 99 years ago.  The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on 28th June 1914 was the spark that ignited Europe and led to what is or has been known variously as the Great War, the War to End Wars and the First World War.  With next year marking the centenary of the outbreak of that war, there has been a resurgence of interest which, doubtless, will redouble as the date of the anniversary approaches.  Already, one of our national newspapers has started printing supplements about the 1914-18 war, publishing one on the first weekend of each month.  There has also been a rather low-key campaign to clean and tidy up war memorials across the country - and to replace metal panels listing casualties that have been stolen from memorials and sold as scrap.

People do seem to have more interest in history generally than they did only a few years ago.  As well as the almost never-ending cookery programmes on television, Who Do You Think You Are? seems to be very popular.  This is a programme in which the familial roots are explored of one "celebratory" for each hour-long programme.  I suppose many of the viewers - probably most of them, in fact - are those people for whom the lives and doings of "celebs" are important.  All the same, there has been an increase in the number of people delving into the past, whether that be a matter of tracing their family tree or the history of the town or village where they live.

What I find surprising - a more than slightly alarming - is how close some of those historical events seem.  For example, it really doesn't seem as though the First World War was a century ago.  We were watching a (fictitious) television programme the other evening which was about a feud between two families in a small village.  The feud arose from the fact that a member of one family had been charged of cowardice in the face of the enemy and sentenced to death.  A member of the second family, in charge of the firing squad, had been obliged to administer the coup de grace.  This was shown as a flashback and aroused great indignation from the Old Bat about inhumane treatment, until I pointed out that it had happened nearly a hundred years ago and that people's attitude to these things had changed somewhat in the meantime.

I suppose, now I come to think about it, the past is not so very far away from us.  After all, I clearly remember my grandfathers.  One worked in dockyards during the Great War while the other served in the Royal Navy - aboard those primitive submarines.  Perhaps it's not so surprising really.

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