Saturday, November 11, 2023

Two Women at War

John McCrae's medals at his house in Guelph, Ontario.

Nov 11, 2023 - Our teacher taught a drafting class for adults. He told us a story: he said he was walking in the countryside with a friend and talking to him. He turned away, and when he turned back his friend was lying dead on the ground. It was World War II, and they were Canadian soldiers in northern Italy. Everyone else hit the ground. There was a small hut in a field a distance away from them, and that was the only place a shot could have come from. They all hugged the ground until a machine gun was set up and filled the little hut with bullets. When they got into the hut they found a sniper’s rifle next to a beautiful blonde woman in a dress who the machine gun had cut in half. They found nothing there that could tell them who she was or why she’d chosen to end someone’s life as well as her own. Was she an Italian who still was for Mussolini after Italy had changed sides, or a German following their army which had moved into northern Italy?

The other woman was in her 60s when I danced with her at a party at Tai Chi club in Guelph around 1982. I said I’d been to Dún Laoghaire, a suburb of Dublin, and she said she used to dance at the Royal Marine hotel there. She asked me if it was still there. I think she hadn’t been back to Ireland since she left to join the ATS and became a physical education teacher for the British Army, drilling soldiers in exercises. She told me she joined the British  Army because "I felt that the Nazis were absolute evil and I wanted to do something to help”, even though Ireland was neutral and soldiers who left the Irish army to fight for the allies were blacklisted for government jobs and were worried they could be sent to prison after the war. She stood straight but flexible like a spring as we danced.

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