Post-war generation writing September 2022
The post-war generation writing... I set foot in a mystery, in an unfamiliar place, without any information. My expectations were a little different, but I'm glad they weren't met. We don't always get what we crave. I didn’t, nor did the people whose names are written [in stone] all over this area.
Coming here, I was only aware of the place where I was going to stay, not the weight it carries with it. You never know the backstory of something standing in front of you. It doesn't matter if it's something important to you or completely alien to you. For example, during this project I have come to the conclusion that I do not even know my own parents, the people who have been around me all my life. And they survived the war. They witnessed it, experienced it and felt it on their own skin. But does it haunt them? Do they have the scars they carry with them? Have their dreams been shattered? Do they feel healed? Are they afraid history will repeat itself? I keep saying how ignorant people can be without even realising, as I have been.
I ignored the people most important to me, my parents. The strength these people have, not just my parents, but all the survivors, always leaves me speechless. We should all pause for a moment and think. Thoughts are something we run away from. Maybe because we're afraid of knowing? The war happened. It happened here. People died. Hopes have been dashed. Childhoods stopped. And now what?
Thirty years later, I find myself walking in this terrifying space where people were watching last moments of life before they disappeared. I didn't dare put myself in their shoes. No one can imagine what it feels like; it would be an act of disrespect for the pain they went through. Among the names mentioned earlier, I read my last name several times. I doubt I'll ever know if our families were related. The best thing I can do is carry my last name with pride, feeling that they too may be proud of it, that they didn't die for no reason.
A lot of thoughts are jumbled up in my head right now. I'm sure not all of them will be expressed because I'm not the kind of person who talks a lot. But I'm listening. I listen carefully and I carve the words worth hearing into my memory. Although I am leaving this project feeling overwhelmed, I'm glad what I saw and what I heard. Not because I'm happy it happened, far from it, but to learn what shouldn't happen again.
It's the past that shapes us. Don't speculate about the future you know nothing about. Stop telling me about the present, I'm aware of it. Tell me about the past we all share, then you'll get my attention.
~ Velida Arnautović