In my part of the world, the Remembrance/Veteran Day is not observed. Considering that I have made so many friends here that do commemorate this special day, it feels appropriate to dedicate a post to this subject.
This day in history, the 11th of November, marked the end of the first World War in 1918. Growing up in Eastern Bloc, the facts and traces of both World Wars were ever so present through out my childhood. In fact, my grandfather -my fathers father- witnessed the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on 28 June 1914 in Bosnia-Herzegovina, an event that started the WWI.
Wars are filled with horrors and unimaginable atrocities, showing mankind from it's worst side. However, in parallel, they also produce unsung heroes and bring out the best in people, often highlighting that ultimately we are all the same. Thus raising the irony in the whole purpose of the battles.
I have always felt strong empathy for the ordinary people involved in wars. Those nameless soldiers, that no one knows about. That no one ever writes about. In every war, there is immense suffering of the common man - from any country, on any side - that only does his duty and knows nothing of politics and the struggle for power and land, that is the elusive cause of the war he is fighting.
In history of the first world war, the notion of a particular event has effected me deeply; the occurrence of the so called Christmas Truce. The term describes brief unofficial cease of fights, taking place on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day between German and British or French troops in World War I, particularly that between British and German troops stationed along the Western Front during Christmas 1914.
As quoted from the Wikipedia:
"The truce began on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1914, when German troops began decorating the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium, for Christmas. They began by placing candles on trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols, most notably Stille Nacht (Silent Night). The British troops in the trenches across from them responded by singing English carols.
The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were calls for visits across the "No Man's Land" where small gifts were exchanged — whiskey, jam, cigars, chocolate, and the like. The soldiers exchanged gifts, sometimes addresses, and drank together. The artillery in the region fell silent that night. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently-fallen soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Proper burials took place as soldiers from both sides mourned the dead together and paid their respects.
The truce spread to other areas of the lines, and there are many stories of football matches between the opposing forces.
In many sectors, the truce lasted through Christmas night, but in some areas, it continued until New Year's Day."