After one of the coldest winter's in years, Grahamstown's spent the last week basking in sunshine! It's still freeeeeeezing at night, but daytimes are positively balmy! And maybe it's cos I was writing a commentary piece on the Greeks yesterday - check out the long blog after this one - but as I was making a fire last night, my thoughts fell on two little nations - one at the bottom of Europe and the other at its very top - who in the bitter cold of winter 1940 fought these amazing guerilla wars against naked aggression by really big powers. Finland was invaded by the Soviet Union and Greece by Italy at the end of summer 1940. Both were monstrously outnumbered, both were expected to fall within a fortnight, and both held out for the entire winter - turning their armies into guerilla units that hit and vanished back into the snow.If you watch footage of both Finland and Greece's winter wars, the conditions were appalling! Blizzards! And still they fought. Never gave up! Never surrendered! Men and women stretching themselves beyond the superhuman to endure and win!
Of course tragedy followed anyway. Having signed an uneasy truce with the Soviets in which they did give up some of their land, the Fins joined forces with Hitler when he invaded the USSR - forced to get into bed with a monster by the simple reality of 'my enemy's enemy is my friend' and suffering the post-WWII consequences. And Greece was of course dessimated by the German army that came in to salvage some victory in Greece.
Be that as it may, as I sat in front of my cozy hearth last night, pondering my endless dilemma of how to monetise my escalating interest in the arts and make ends meet, I thought back on those brave Fins in their all-white snowsuits defending their country against vast odds in the freezing chill of a Scandinavian winter; and of the courageous Greeks in the mountains of Ipiro, where women were dragging cannons up steep ravines to free up men to fight - and my crisis by comparison seemed tiny.
It's amazing how the after-scent of human courage never dissipates, even decades on - How it inspires in the most unexpected ways! I don't know why the bravery of the Fins and the Greeks in their respective winter wars of 1940 always moves me so much! Maybe it's cos deep down inside there's a part of me that recognises - that feels - what it took for them to stand up, say NO and back it up with action! Maybe. But what I do know is that every winter, at some stage I always remember that bravery and draw courage from it myself!
And hopefully, when the winter feels too much for you, you too will cast a quick thought to two nations' long forgotten winter wars and remember the true grit we as human beings are made of.
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