‘Memorials remind us of our need to find peace’

September 10, 2014

 

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SOVIET STATUE: This 11-metre tall statue shows a soldier carrying a flag with two comrades after the liberation of Bratislava and the surrounding area in 1945.

View from Slavin

WHAT A VIEW: The view of the city from the Slavin Memorial is one of the reasons many people come to visit it as the city stretches out before the visitor on a clear day.

 

Slavin Memorial

FACING THE FRONT: Walking up to the front of the Slavin Memorial after making out way up from town. The central obelisk shown here is 39 metres tall.

 

ApproachingVimy

LENGTHY PROJECT: The Vimy Ridge Memorial took 11 years to build and the special Seget limestone had to be brought in via boat and other transport. It is underpinned by 11,000 tonnes of concrete and hundreds of tonnes of steel.

 

 

VimyRidge1

PEACEFUL PLACE:  I’m at the base of the steps of the memorial. Just out of shot is one of the stylized figures called the Defenders used to show the peaceful nature of the Canadian State and there are olives branches carved into the wall to emphasise this.

VimyRidge3

SIDE SHOT: This is the spectacle from the side of the memorial. In the foreground is one of the Defenders.

 

A PROMINENT war memorial on the edge of Bratislava harbours mixed feelings for the local residents.

In highlighting this piece on memorials, I want to focus on the sacrifices made for the freedoms that we enjoy today; not to substitute one form of authoritarianism with another and to ensure such suffering never happens again

However it is more poignant that ever with the increasing atrocities being caused by the so-called Islamic State of Syria and Levant in the Middle East and the ongoing civil war in the Ukraine. The crimes against humanity in the Middle East are so bad that they are too graphic for me to refer to.

This year and next represent the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Bratislava and later this year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Arras in World War I.

The Slavin Memorial is in a wealthy district, Malé Karpaty, and it has panoramic views of city which local residents and tourists alike making the trek up there for that reason alone.

The central obelisk stands 39 metres high and is topped by an 11-metre tall statue of a victorious Soviet soldier carrying a flag and it was built between 1957 and 1960.

In more recent times President Vladimir Putin of Russia visited the memorial with President George W Bush Jnr in 2005.

The central solemn hall has various inscriptions and statues and a symbolic sarcophagus made of white marble.

At the base of the memorial are inscriptions recording the Slovak cities that were liberated by the Red Army in the final weeks of World War II.

The memorial is a cemetery that holds the remains of 6,845 Soviet soldiers who perished fighting in Bratislava and the surrounding countryside. As I will refer later in the Vimy Ridge Memorial, it was for the 60,000 Canadian dead from World War I.

As well as the war memorial, there are also statues of famous Slovak artists, such as Jan Kulich, Tibor Bártfay and Jozef Kostka.

The Slavin memorial and Soviet liberation carries a mixed bag of memories for the locals. There is genuine gratitude for the sacrifice of the Red Army but not the imposition of the Iron Curtain.

This was only made worse by the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion of the then Czechoslovakia in 1968  which ousted the popular Slovak leader Alexander Dubcek – from then any popularity they had evaporated very quickly. This feeling is certainly articulated through the words inscribed on the Devin Memorial that is dedicated to the people who tried to escape the Communist regime by crossing the Danube.

The memorial at Vimy Ridge in Belgium commemorates the battle of the ridge where all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force pushed the German soldiers off it. It was a military engagement that formed part of the Battle of Arras.

The memorial was designed by Walter Allard Seymour, took eleven years to build and was officially unveiled in 1936 by King Edward VIII, the late uncle of the present Queen of England, Elizabeth I, in one of his few public engagements before he abdicated the throne.

The Queen herself re-dedicated the memorial on 9 April 2007 during a ceremony to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the battle.

The length of time it took was partly due to the import of Seget limestone from an ancient Roman quarry in Croatia as the logistics of transporting this stone to the site were problematic.

It has 11,000 tonnes of concrete as it’s foundation bed and was reinforced with hundreds of tonnes of steel.

The memorial contains 20 stylized figures which are there to help the viewer contemplate the structure as a whole. There is a group of figures at each end of the front wall, next to the base of the steps.

The two groups are called the Defenders and are based on the ideals for which the Canadians gave their lives in the War. Each of them as a cannon barrel draped in laurel and olive branches carved into the wall above to represent peace.

Another part of the memorial called Breaking of the Sword shows three young men in situ with one of them crouching and breaking his sword – an extremely uncommon trait in war memorials.

In Sympathy of the Canadians for the Helpless, one man standing upright is surrounded by three others struck by hunger and disease. The standing man is supposed to represent Canada’s helping the weak and the oppressed.

The land at Vimy Ridge was given in perpetuity to the Canadians in recognition of their war effort on condition that they erected a memorial and they have assumed the responsibility of the maintenance of the memorial and the 100-acre battlefield park ever since. It is only one of two National Historic Sites of Canada located outside the country.

 

 

 

 

 

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Anna Valkova September 11, 2014 at 6:55 am

It is very interesting and historical an article about memorials and written quite in depth
The Vimy Ridge Memorial seems much bigger than the Slavin Memorial. Thanks

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