Poppy Day

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday is David’s brother’s birthday (1919).  His mom’s birthday was yesterday (1900, or 1899 under the Julian calendar)  and his dad’s birthday the ninth of November (1888). His dad and mom met in Irkutsk Siberia when dad served with the US Expeditionary Force guarding the trans-Siberian railway in Europe and mom was a White Russian fleeing the Communists. “Dr Zhivago, the story of my life”, she said.

David survives alone.  Every year, he gets in a strange and emotional mood around this time.

David served during the Korean War.  “The forgotten war”, he says.

When David’s mom arrived in the American South of the 1920s, she was completely shocked.  An educated woman  who had attended the gymnasium in Estonia, and a socialist living in Wilmington NC, she worked in Democrat primaries and national elections making phone calls on behalf of her candidates.

She never lost her Russian accent. Based on David’s recollection, when making political calls, she said, “I vant you to vote for my candidate”  or something to that effect. He once chided her for her accent  She responded “I speak four languages, how many do you speak?”

Making political phone calls with a Russian accent in NC in the 1960s wasn’t the coolest thing you could do.

David only spoke three languages.  He travelled overseas and lived with his grandparents in 1935-37, and spoke the Russian of a child.  He also learned German when he worked with NATO.  Of course he spoke English with a NC accent.

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 This past week, I finished The Fall of the Ottoman Empire: the Great War in the MIddle East, by Eugene Rogan. I knew something of this history because I have read much about WWI, the history of the Middle East and the British Empire.  However, I did not know or remember that the two sides engaged in trench warfare and that the fighting was as bad in the Middle East as in France.

Most amazing is the description of the various campaigns and battles in the Middle East, names like Allepo you might recognize if you follow current events. Today being the anniversary of the end of the Great War or Armistice Day as we knew it as children, it seemed appropriate to me that the book ends at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month almost exactly 100 years ago.

I know as Americans we wish we never again had to venture overseas to fight in another foreign war, but we are global citizens who cannot afford isolationism.corn_poppies_smithsonian_banner

12 thoughts on “Poppy Day

    • Not all these stories are wonderful. A grandmother in my kids’ father’s family christened a ship during WWII. Every year the story is told, and the ship gets bigger and bigger. This year it was a destroyer. Next year ?

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  1. Thank you, David! I recall when servicemen came home from Korea to our college campus — quite a contrast with our college boys. Always thought the term Police Action simply avoided clearly stating the reality.

    I also recall Buddy Poppies I distributed down town in exchange for contributions to veterans through my city’s American Legion when I was a young elementary school age girl WWII years.

    The family story recollections you share make history real. I can empathize with David’s mother’s culture shock moving to the south, culturally, and language — and I spoke American English, but not with a southern drawl — “Y’all better come and go home with us.”
    I visualized horrendous scenes, the Reds and Whites, in Warren Beatty’s movie “Reds” when you wrote of her fleeing the Communists.

    I think there are times in our lives mood-affecting memories are triggered, often unexpectedly, releasing our thoughts of what was or what might have been.

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