Not To Forget by Marina Olivieri

Following the visit of the Italian students of class 5EL from the Instituto D’Instruzione Superiore  ‘Augusto Capriotti’ to the ELMS Annual Reunion in April 2016, Marina Olivieri wrote about their experiences on behalf of her class.  This is her unaltered account.

After spending two days in the industrial city of Manchester, we moved to York to get straight to the heart of our project about the Resistance.  Once there we were warmly welcomed by Mr Roger Stanton, founder and Director of ELMS and promoter of the 26th Escape Line Memorial Service, an important event in memory of the facts of WW2 and the deeds of the Resistance.  The aim of these volunteers is to ‘help the old to remember and the young to understand’, to raise awareness of still topical social issues like peoples’ rights and tolerance.

But before attending the ceremony, in the previous days we had the opportunity to thoroughly grasp the dynamics that brought to the outbreak of the wars (WW1 & WW2) and the consequences of these terrible events.

Upon visiting the York Castle Museum and the Yorkshire Regiment Museum we strengthened what we learned at school in a captivating fashion, like improving our knowledge of the Victorian Age, while wearing the clothes of ancient ladies and gentlemen, and learning of the war techniques and the use of various weapons.

The stories of Mr David Sharp, and Robert Hobbs and his spouse, really captured us.  Through their eyes, the feelings of the ones who never forgot, the sorrow of the ones who suffered, but also the strength of the ones who managed to overcome it and the will to pass important values on to the next generations; these are the vibes they conveyed to us and that totally won our hearts.

An actual lecture on the contrast between the capitalist and communist societies was given by Mr David Sharp who, through the narration of his experiences during the Korean War, exposed the differences between the two systems and the uselessness of violence; it’s no use reacting brutally or promoting wars, because violence leads to other violence.  Looking back at the past he doesn’t feel hatred for the Korean people (who kept him prisoner and harmed him) because he knows it would be pointless; some of those people were just obeying orders and after all nobody gains anything from violence.  He experienced that. His words of humanity reflect his deepest conviction; that ‘everybody matters’.  It is not right to make people expendable to the greater needs of the State, because ‘the State doesn’t come first.  Humankind does.  And man still has a lot to learn’.  However he is really optimistice and believes that human beings will learn from their mistakes, learn how to communicate with one another and understand the value of life.

The project hit its peak on 30th April, when we reached Eden Camp to take part in the Service of Thanksgiving and Remembrance.  After a short introduction we listened to some passages highlighting the value of freedom and paid our tributes to the Hymn of the Resistance.  After that was the laying of wreaths, flowers and memorial crosses, and two students of our class laid ours, featuring the emblem of the school.

Later in the afternoon we had the chance to visit some of the huts of the camp, which addressed particular aspects of the war, like the role of women, civil defence and the main events of the specific years (1919 and 1940).  We felt so invested in these activities that we regretted having to come back, even if the time spent there was not scarce.

In the evening we  had a gala dinner with members of the ELMS association.  The tables were a mingle of English, Italian and Basque people (other students were also involved in the project) and everybody had the opportunity to talk with everybody else and open up new view-points,compare the various aspects of different cultures or learn unexpected details or anecdotes about the years of war. The atmosphere was grand. It was as if everybody had known one another for a life time, even if we had met a few days before.  There was an indescribable feeling that allowed us to talk in a sincere way, without worrying about mistakes and whatnot.  There were no barriers at all.  We were a huge cosmopolitan family who wanted to share thoughts and opinions.  To top up the soiree we were taken a photo all together to celebrate the event.

The trip was definitely too short.  We were deeply sad to leave our new acquaintances and to return, but someone would have to come home after all to spread the knowledge and the values that we had picked up on.  It was a beautiful experience that enriched our cultural baggage with traditions and ways of thinking, and provided us with an insight that cast a new light on those bpast events.  For this reason we will never be able to express enough gratitude to the one who made this experience possible; our English and History teachers who co-operated to realize a project unique of this kind.