Six years and one day. That’s how long World War II lasted. It started in 1939 and ended on August 15, 1945 when Japan fell.
Friday was the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe.
May 8, 1945 – a day that most Americans don’t remember but that is still widely celebrated across Europe. Those celebrations and remembrances looked different this year as we are all fighting a different kind of enemy right now.
When we talk about the war we tend to stick to the big picture – the war in numbers, pictures from concentration camps, images of aircraft, general ideas about a time long ago.
But I would like to pause a moment to remind us all that these were real people who suffered and struggled, who lived and died.
People in the country, in some ways, were better off because they were able to grow gardens or raise chickens for eggs or cows for milk. People in cities like London lived in constant fear of bombing and starvation.
They all lived in terror of the enemy and of freezing to death in their own homes. They blacked out even the tiniest sliver of light every night because the smallest ray of light could betray them.
Families packed up their children and put them on trains, sending them far from their city homes to family or strangers in the countryside. Some children were too small to even remember their parents. No one was guaranteed to see their families ever again.
Women did war work on the home front, driving trucks and ambulances, farming and working in factories. Able bodied men served in the military. Everyone else had responsibilities to the war effort or maybe just to keeping themselves alive.
You can see the relief and joy on the faces of those people pictured above. They were among the lucky who survived.
It’s hard to get a handle on how many people died because of World War II but that number is upward of 70 million. That’s soldiers and civilians, including those who died of war related disease and famine or in concentration camps.
It’s hard to fathom.
It’s also helpful for creating some perspective in these current challenging times.
People are struggling right now. The money problems are real. Issues with supply chains are causing anxiety. People are tired of being at home. They’re struggling to educate their kids on topics they themselves don’t understand. They’re struggling to access technology for school and work – a basic utility for some but a luxury for many.
Misinformation is spreading like wildfire and my newsfeed is filled with posts from individuals doing little more than inciting panic over an already terrible situation.
Life is hard right now but it has only been a problem in this country for a couple of months and these issues won’t last for six years and one day. Even if it feels like it already has been that long.
Those people fought with all their might to survive that war. Perhaps we would be better off if we use where we come from to help better understand where we are. It certainly makes me feel better about my own circumstances to compare today to what our friends in Europe endured 75 years ago.