I’ve just finished reading All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – see the post, Serious Reading: An Update from a couple of weeks ago. It’s about the separate – but ultimately intertwined – stories of a blind French girl and a German boy with a skill for physics and engineering and it’s set in World War II.
The appalling conditions described at the end of the book – little food available; cities devastated; invading soldiers; infrastructure obliterated; no rule of law; an end to order – made me think of reading from last year about the siege of Sarajevo.
One of the comments that stuck with me from the accounts I read of events there and in other parts of the former Yugoslavia is that people didn’t think it could happen to them. They had comfortable middle-class lives. They went on holiday in other European countries and in the US. They ate out in restaurants, entertained at home. They bought fashionable clothes and whatever books they wanted to read, magazines too. Teenagers went on dates, progressed to university, planned their lives.
And then the unthinkable – the unimaginable – happened and it happened to them. Conflict and siege, snipers and soldiers. People weren’t excused because they were educated or because they had a certain level of income. Clothes, books, paintings on the walls, electrical devices are all irrelevant when you need safety and food.
War doesn’t distinguish – at least, not fairly – and it lays waste to homes, lives, families, friendships and futures. It creates destitution and anyone looks poor when they’re destitute.
We see refugees leaving war zones and it’s hard to discern the lives people used to lead. They might have been lives like ours. Until the unthinkable – the unimaginable – happened.
There, but for the grace of God, goes each one of us and where would we turn if the unthinkable – the unimaginable – happened to us?
And we’d do well to be watchful, no matter how safe and comfortable we feel. Because there are a lot of people who could tell us that there’s no such thing as it couldn’t happen here.