CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 19 . . . . May 23, 2003
All countries and civilizations bear the marks of past conflicts, and the wars of the twentieth century have left legacies that continue to haunt survivors as well as innocent victims. Travel through parts of rural France and one will see grassy craters, as well as road signs forbidding camping and field sports, because unexploded shells from the First World War lie in fields and forests. Starting in 1945, démineurs, "the last foot soldiers of the first World War" took on the obligation of finding, disarming, and disposing of these still deadly arms. It is dangerous work, claiming lives amongst the de miners, as well as those unfortunate enough to happen upon and detonate the shells before the démineurs find them. Still, these men are committed to the eradication of dormant warheads, and they carry out their work with courage and determination.
Further east, in the fields of Russia, bones and bullets are relics bearing witness to the Battle of Stalingrad. There, Valery Strykov pokes and prods the earth, finding bits of shells, helmets, dog tags, and of course, the remains of long fallen combatants. Cemeteries have been built to honour the men, German and Russian, who fought during the Second World War, and the emotion of the now elderly men who visit these final resting places of former comrades in arms reminds the viewer that, for these aging veterans, the aftermath of war is in the poignant recollections of lost youth and lost friends.
With each successive conflict during the twentieth century, the number of shells exploded, bombs dropped, and armaments used has escalated. During the Vietnam War, more bombs were dropped than in all of the theatres of the Second World War. And in Vietnam, the aftermath of dioxin poisoning, in the form of Agent Orange, has afflicted subsequent generations. Physical deformities of all types are suffered by children born to those who survived the war as the use of Agent Orange has led to genetic defects that are truly heart breaking to see.
While physical injury is a common outcome of war time, for many, profound psychological damage to individuals and families is the legacy of the Bosnian conflict. As in all wars, families are divided and destroyed, and children are left to be raised without parents. Pedrag Gavric's wife was killed by a sniper, leaving him with two small children to raise. Those two children are now young adults, haunted by the loss of their mother, and keenly aware of their father's struggle to cope with his own emotional difficulties. Like the démineurs profiled at the beginning of the video, he, too, works to rid his country of the remnants of war, constantly reminded of his own losses.
Aftermath: The Remnants of War is, at times, a very difficult video to watch. The physical and psychological pain suffered as a result of war is compelling, sad, and moving, and the scenes of graphic violence will disturb some it should be previewed prior to use. Regardless of when, where, or by whom the war was fought, both soldiers and civilians are victims of global and local conflict. This is a video useful for world issues and modern history classes, as well as in psychology or sociology classes which examine the phenomenon of war. It certainly has a place in peace studies courses, and I think that it would be an excellent starting point for senior high school activities leading up to Remembrance Week observances.
My only quibble with Aftermath: The Remnants of War is its length: at 74 minutes, it is just a bit long for many classroom time slots. Although the many interviews show that the aftermath of war is universally tragic, tighter editing would have improved the production as a whole. Still, Aftermath: The Remnants of War is a worthwhile supplement to senior high social studies classes in grades 11 and 12, and is particularly welcome because of its international perspective.
Joanne Peters is the teacher librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.
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