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Visiting Ypres and Dunkirk

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e00717During our vacation in Belgium we decided to visit some historical places.

In one day we made a trip to French city Dunkirk (Dunkerque) and Belgian city Ypres (Ieper). After visiting such places you will never be the same.

“Miracle of Dunkirk”

When we were walking at the beach of Malo – les – bains, it was difficult to imagine that this place during May 1940 was in all world newspapers.

Here, French and British armies were trapped by German Army. Every ship from Great Britain was send there to save soldiers. Thanks to the bravery of Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, no less than 338 000 troops were rescued.

ww2bIf Britain would lose these soldiers, it would have to sign up peace contract. This didn’t happen, and in 1944 Allied Forces approached Dunkirk once more. Germans kept city as a fortress and surrounded themselves only on 9th of May, 1945. ¾ of the city was destroyed.

After I visited Dunkirk the thoughts “what if…” were raising in my head. What if these soldiers would be killed, would the war end differently? And I remember at our historical classes my teacher was telling us, that Stalingrad was the most important battle during the World War II. But what if Britain would surrender after Dunkirk, would Soviet Union be able to defeat Hitler itself??

I want to think that the enemy was defeated by common forces.

The World War II still has its historical lessons and I hope we will listen to them.

“ I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones”. Albert Einstein.

World War I in Ypres

20140626-232742When you come to centre of Ypres, it is difficult to understand that everything was destroyed and those gothic beautiful buildings actually are rather new.

Ypres was a strategic city for Germans to their way to France. Here chemical weapon was used for the first time (tear gas in 1915, mustard gas in 1917).

There were several long battles in Ypres, the most famous is Third Battle in 1917. After months of fighting about half a million people were killed from both sides. In total over 1,700,000 people lost their lives in Ypres.

In 1927 the Menin Gate Memorial was founded. It honours missing soldiers, with no graves. Its large Hall of Memory contains names on stone panels of 54 896, who died in the Salient, whose bodies were not found or identified.ypres-ieper-ambrosia11

For me it was a strange feeling to be at this memorial. Partly, because at school we didn’t study so much history of the World War I, just how communists could come to the power, also more time was spent on World War II. So I discovered a lot of history for myself, but the taste of it was bitter. Humanity knew how bad the battles can be, but anyway there are still wars on our planet.

Anyway, in the park near memorial there was a photo exhibition “Making Peace”,that you would not be able to finish without tears. It contains many photos from different wars humans had on the past century, like war in Vietnam, or Bosnian war, war in Chechnya, IraqA-Before-After

The ideas of this exhibition for me are in quotes of Federico Mayor:

“We must construct a new set of values and attitudes to replace the culture of war which, for centuries, has been influencing the course of civilization”.

And in Leo Tolstoy’s:

“Let us forgive each other – only then we will live in peace”.

I think only after visiting such places one fully can understand terrors and horrors of past and present days. Books and documentaries are good,but being at the place itself and feeling its sad energy made me promise myself to do everything possible to be a great human being, help other and not to support any war.

I am happy if you were able to finish this article. And what about you, have you ever visited historical places that made you feel differently about yourself and others?  Would be happy for your comments, my dear reader.

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