Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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The eternal flame of remembrance


IT is an incredible thing to be the daughter and granddaughter of Europeans and North Africans who lived through World War II. The emotional and psychological remnants of the war lived on in their hearts and minds for over 80 years. 

I feel the fear they felt . . . that all-consuming fear conceived in terror and powerlessness. I feel the censorship they endured, being afraid to talk because ‘the walls have ears’. I feel the suffering that for them became the reality of their daily lives, during six years of darkness, not knowing what the next day will bring, not knowing if they will be alive to see the sun rising again. I feel their unimaginable strength, the type of strength forged in the fire of a world crumbling around them. I feel them like a living, eternal flame inside my heart that will never die. I am at once afflicted and blessed by that flame of remembrance.

It is an affliction, knowing that the insanity of regimes has blown a crater in our collective consciousness which will take generations to heal. It is a blessing, knowing that the emotional remnants of the war have been passed on to me – the sheer significance of their plight and survival living on through my existence like an oasis in the desert of their suffering. I am inextricably linked to them, to their hearts, to their souls, to the courage that was theirs during humanity’s darkest hour.

It has given me sight. It has given me an acute understanding of the fragility of life. It has shown me the true nature and strength of the human spirit and how much it can endure in the name of love, and in the name of life. 

I walk on the path of remembrance with the brilliance of its flame burning brightly within me. I carry the emotional remnants of the war inside of me, which I inherited from my parents and grandparents – the strongest people I have ever known. I will take the fear and turn it into fearlessness. I will take the censorship and speak out louder than ever. I will take their suffering, and turn it into bliss and jubilation. I will take the silence of those dark years, and turn it into everlasting remembrance. 

Mary dedicates this piece to her parents, who recently passed away. 

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Mary Dawood Catlin
Mary Dawood Catlin
Mary Dawood Catlin is an author, historian, pianist, and advocate for human rights and liberties. She is a voting member of the Recording Academy (Grammy Awards). She is currently a doctoral candidate in Music and Musicology at the Sorbonne, Paris.

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