A Lifetime Of Courage

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 10th grade October 2001

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A Lifetime of Courage"¦ Hands, the ultimate symbol of life. A busy network of contour lines representing the never-ending journey's and challenges we face. As we age, our hands become more revealing of our achievements and victories. In 1942, a pair of dedicated hands worked tremendously hard to create a future. A future, distant from the unjust and cruelty which had arisen during the war.

While wiping the tiny beads of sweat from his sunburnt forehead, Wally appreciated the surrounding beauty of the mountains and countryside. His tiny village lay nestled between sweeping wheat plains and the vast blue sky. Wally had never dreamed of leaving this secluded oasis. His relatives all lived within the vicinity, which led Wally to live a simple yet fulfilling life. He was aged seventeen at the time.

The first signs of tension began to grind at Wally's bones. The once peaceful atmosphere around the family table began to fade into a nail-biting moment, where each of Wally's six bothers all sat listening in anticipation.

Father, the dominating figurehead of the household, was in charge of the radio and would eagerly await for more news concerning Germanys advance.

Wally had little understanding of the implications if Germany was to invade, however he was influenced by his fathers negative attitudes and statements. While working in the fields, Wally could not forget this hassle, which was consuming and disturbing the peace within the family. Wally's father became hostile and pessimistic about the future and this left a very dark cloud obscuring the serenity within the household.

The ringing sound of fighter planes filled the skies. It was an unfamiliar sound that Wally had never experienced before. That day, the cloudy sky cast a bleak shadow across the village, almost a warning that something horrid was about to take place. As the sound eventually faded into the distance, the more familiar noise of his parent's voices was coming from the kitchen. The whispers echoed throughout the tiny, one-bedroom cottage. In the bunks nearby, Wally's brothers stirred. Wally sensed trouble. Stumbling onto the dew-covered floorboards, Wally soon found his mother busy packing warm winter clothing. Her face was expressionless. What was happening? At first, the whole packing routine provided a little entertainment and thrill, however, when staring into his father's bleak eyes, Wally could no longer see the familiar spark of reassurance.

The paralyzing winter's air made Wally's journey almost unbearable. The weather was working against him. He was to leave the village with his six brothers to seek refuge in the nearby mountains. This was the first time Wally had ever been separated from his parents, who were to remain at the village to gather more information. At the time, a blistering numbness had filled Wally's mind to the extent that he didn't fully comprehend the situation. He seemed to be in a state of idleness, unaware of his surroundings or the events unfolding infront of him.

The sound of shotguns pierced through the thick winter's fog. The Germans were advancing. Wally's brothers decided it was best to give themselves up, rather than risk their lives. Wally was still in shock. The sweet sound of his mother's reassurance. The event kept playing over and over in Wally's head, each time his mother's voice sounded more and more distant and unrealistic. They were going to survive.

The next three years proved to be the toughest Wally had ever faced. Working in a German prison camp, he had lost all hope and humanity. Wally had been separated from his brothers and yearned for his family to be reunited. Reunited to the tranquility of their village before the havoc had destroyed their peaceful existence. During this time, Wally lived in a trance like state, performing all the tasks required of him, without feeling any emotion. The German officers were as cold as the icy winter's day when he fled with his bothers, towards the mountain slopes. However, Wally would often escape the officer's cruel treatment and spend forbidden time with Tanya, a Polish-Jew who had also been separated from her loved ones by the war. They would meet after evening roll call, at the barbed wire fence that separated the men's camp from the women's. Just as the dark was settling in, they were able to talk for a short period of time and comfort each other before the Germans emerged in their thick fur coats, armed with bright spotlights. Wally and Tanya did not realise that they were to become soul mates, bound forever by their eternal love. The only photo Wally has of the grueling time he spent working in the German prison camp.

In the years that followed, Germany lost their power over Europe. Wally and Tanya experienced freedom, a feeling that they would never forget. They only had each other. To escape the painful memories, they decided to move to Australia for a new beginning. Wally was twenty and Tanya eighteen. In 1945, on the shores of Melbourne, Tanya and Wally arrived with a young son, whom they named Richard. They had no money or shelter and no knowledge of the language. Hard labor earned Wally a decent living. With determination and the strength of his hands, Wally was able to create his future.

Sitting back and enjoying the sunlight in his favorite recliner, Wally is now an Australian citizen. He lives happily retired with his wife, Tanya. Wally enjoys gardening and reading; however, often he can be seen examining his hands, the hands that are a symbol of life. A busy network of contour lines representing the never-ending journey's and challenges he faced during the war.

Wally with his family in Australia.