The Allied armies fighting in the Second World War were an international and transcultural aggregation of Western, African, Southern American, and Asian soldiers. The main reason for the intercultural diversity in the French and British armies consisted of the extensive deployment of colonial troops on several fronts, from Europe to the Pacific, in the air and on the sea. Unlike their European Allies, the United States did not rely on a colonial empire and had only American troops to deploy in the war. However, the American armed forces were the mirror of American society, which included a variety of ethnic and cultural communities. The book Soldati e patrie (Soldiers and Fatherlands) offers remarkable insight into one particular aspect of this phenomenon, namely the presence of the Italians in the Allied armies, with a focus on the US Army.
Senior Lieutenant Illya Titko is a combat veteran from Kalush, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, Ukraine. He was drafted in September 2015, or rather, he volunteered for the mobilization that was underway. Mr. Titko writes his book from the perspective of a citizen-soldier, as a man who continued to maintain one foot firmly in the civilian world, even though his new environment was a war zone, and “war is when your entire world is turned upside down.”
Jeffrey Stephaniuk, the excellent translator of this book, introduces with these words the author (at p. 6), highlighting the perspective from which the whole story is told: that of a “citizen in arms”, a man who has answered the impellent call of duty when his country was in dire danger. Titko himself adds some remarks a few pages later:
It was not an easy task for me to write this book. It was a real inner struggle, for over a year, on whether I should write it or not. But I was pre-occupied with those past events, mulling that chaotic time over and over in my mind, conscious of the fact that it really wasn’t that long ago when I lived through them. There were nights when I couldn’t even sleep. I’d argue with myself: Should I or should I not write this book? I clearly understood that not only should I write this book, but it was necessary for this book be written. First, it was necessary so that everything I experienced would have its place and not become lost in the subsequent living of my everyday life. I needed to write this book so that those who hadn’t been there personally could know about these events. I wanted them to know what happened and how they happened to those involved, with the people, with the country, and of course all those individuals who resolved to walk this same path, namely soldiers defending their country. I realized that such a book would be necessary for children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, so that they would have access to first-hand accounts about these difficult and stormy days and nights in the history of our nation. (12)
War affects our world and lives, whether we are directly involved or not. Its effects are like those of a disease that spreads through the organism, weakening it and altering its relationship with the environment. War destroys communities, poisons associated life, and builds walls. And, which is worse, it plants rotten seeds from which bitter fruits will grow. One antidote to the spread of its malice is listening to the stories of those who have seen its very Gorgon’s face and suffered from its scorching touch.
The Close Encounters in War Journal inaugurates a new section called Back to the light. Stories of healing from trauma. It is entirely devoted to the stories of people who have experienced the war and learned how to cope with the burden of its traumatic memories. Sharing these stories means much to the authors both in terms of ethical commitment and psychological effort. They reveal something intimate that has been troubling them, a core of traumatic memories that haunt their lives. Nonetheless, they are eager to share their stories worldwide with a public of interested and empathic readers, who want to listen and know what war is about.
We are happy to launch this project with two contributions by Ukrainian refugee Olga Kornyushyna and American former infantryman Charles Collins. Olga tells about her traumatic encounter with war as a civilian who had to flee from Kyiv, bombed by the Russians in the present war. Charles tells how he went through four turns of deployment overseas and how he had to fight to heal the moral wounds that such experiences inflicted on him.
The editors of the CEIWJ would like to express their profound gratitude to the authors of these stories and invite all who have stories of healing from war trauma to share them with us and our readers. Veterans, families, friends, therapists, and healers are welcome to submit their contributions.
Our gratitude also goes to Ed Tick, who has generously accepted to embark on this endeavour as co-editor of the Back to the light project, and the members of the section-specific editorial board, Charles Aishi Blocher, Kate Dahlstedt, Nathan Graeser, Lawrence Markworth, Donald McCasland, Glen Miller, Roxy Runyan, and Floyd Striegel.
American psychotherapist Edward Tick’s Warrior’s Return. Restoring the Soul after War (Sounds True, 2014) has been translated into Italian and published last March by Nerosubianco publisher with the title Il ritorno del guerriero. Guarire l’anima dopo la guerra.
The book will be launched on Thursday 5 May in Turin at 18:00. The Centre for Peace and Non-Violent Culture “Sereno Regis” will host the event. The author will join the event remotely to dialogue with the translators Gianluca Cinelli and Patrizia Piredda and answer the questions from the public.
The book will be launched again the following day (Friday 6 May) in Cuneo at 16:30. The event will be hosted by the Institute for the History of Italian Resistance in Cuneo (http://www.istitutoresistenzacuneo.it). The Italian translators and the publisher will be discussants.
Tuesday April 5, 2022, at 2.30pm – Exhibit hall C.A. Ciampi, Palazzo del Pegaso, via de’ Pucci 16, Florence
Curators Matteo Pretelli and Francesco Fusi
Combatants of Italian descent were present in the various Allied armies that took part in World War II against the Axis Powers. They were mostly sons of emigrants who had left Italy between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Hundreds of thousands were Italian Americans serving in the U.S. military, but British Italians, Italian Canadians, Italian Australians, and Italian Brazilians also contributed to the war efforts of their countries. Being present in all theatres of the war, they also fought in Italy, a country that many knew only through the stories of their parents. The exhibition reconstructs this fascinating although neglected history by recounting the stories of these men who contributed to the Allied victory.
The exhibition will be open through April 22, 2022, Monday to Friday: 10 am-12 pm and 3-6 pm
Total War. An Emotional History features some of the most renowned scholars in the fields of the history of emotions and war and culture studies, but the value of the book goes well beyond the expertise of its authors. The eight studies in this edited collection place “the emotions of war centre stage” (Langhamer, Noakes & Siebrecht, Total War: 1) and investigate the intensity and impact of emotions in the total wars of the 20th century. By proposing to use “emotions” as an analytical tool, they also recognize the transformative power of these emotions and consider their linguistic, cultural and physiological dimensions. The volume’s methodological thrust is to use the “expression of emotion” as an analytical category and to study the “emotional agency of historical actors” to then reach new conclusions on motivation and causation in the context of total war.
San Fernando, CA: Tia Chucha Press, 2021. 187 pages
Seeking the most powerful healing practices to address the invisible wounds of war, Dr. Ed Tick has led journeys to Viet Nam for veterans, survivors, activists and pilgrims for the past twenty years. This moving and revelatory collection documents the people, places and experiences on these journeys. It illuminates the soul-searching and healing that occurs when Vietnamese women and children and veterans of every faction of the “American War” gather together to share storytelling and ritual, grieving, reconciliation and atonement. These poems reveal war’s aftermath for Vietnamese and Americans alike and their return to peace, healing and belonging in the very land torn by war’s horrors.
One of the most noticeable people in the field of solidarity has left us: Gino Strada, founder of the NGO Emergency in 1994, which guaranteed free medical and surgical care to the victims of wars and poverty, and a critical spirit against the corruption of Italian health, and the EU arms trade policy.
Gino Strada graduated in Medicine and Surgery at the State University of Milan in 1978, at the age of 30, and specialized in emergency surgery. From 1988 he worked with the Red Cross to assist the war wounded. Then in 1994, together with his wife Teresa Sarti, Strada founded the NGO Emergency, which in 2006 was recognized as a partner of the United Nations. From 2015 he became a member of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) and, in 2018, an official partner of the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid.
In 1999 he published the book Green Parrots (Pappagalli verdi). He recounts there the stories of injured and mutilated adults and children, whom he tended as a civilian war surgeon during the wars in Iraq, Pakistan, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Peru, Kurdistan, Ethiopia, Angola, Cambodia, ex-Yugoslavia, and Djibouti.
Gino Strada was a determined and moral person, a teacher of humanity and a tireless peace activist. He devoted his life to realizing the dream of a world without wars, following in Einstein’s steps, who claimed that “war cannot be humanized, it can only be abolished”.
Gino Strada said:
If one of us, any human being, is suffering like a dog right now, is sick or hungry, it affects us all. It must concern us all, because ignoring human suffering is always an act of violence, and one of the most cowardly.
I believe that war is something that represents the greatest shame of humanity. And I think that the human brain must develop to the point of rejecting this tool as inhuman.
The Last Thing We Ever Do: Vietnam Era Veterans Speak Truth will be officially released on August 8 to coincide with the 57th anniversary of the passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
Warrior Songs third CD, The Last Thing We Ever Do: Vietnam Era Veterans Speak Truth, will be officially released on August 8 to coincide with the 57th anniversary of the passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. The CD, featuring 14 cuts, is a collaboration of 19 Vietnam vets with 21 professional musicians and songwriters to create an eclectic compilation of rock, jazz, blues, and blue grass-inspired stories of the war and its aftereffects. The project involved 81 studio musicians and 14 studios in the United States and Vietnam. A total of 109 artists, 17 of whom are Vietnamese, were involved in creating the CD. The diversity of musical styles mirrors the diversity of the stories, from the Selective Service System to combat to coping with returning to the U.S., civilian life, and moral injury. In all, the songs on the CD chart the three stages of war: “going, there, and back.”
Warrior Songs was founded in 2011 by Iraq War veteran Jason Moon, who, diagnosed with PTSD, attempted suicide. He began to write songs about his experiences, and in 2010 released the CD Trying to Find My Way Home. This led to performances at educational sessions for non-vets and veterans’ retreats, which in turn led to vets sharing their stories with him. He realized that music could be an agency of healing for others if he could transform the stories into songs with the help of professional musicians and songwriters. He founded Warrior Songs in 2011, and the first CD, If You Have to Ask . . ., with Moon as executive producer, was released in 2016. The CD Women at War: Warrior Songs Vol. 2 was released in 2018 and represents the first time in the history of modern music that a full length CD was created from the testimony of women veterans. Eighteen women veterans and two Gold Star family members supplied testimony. 17 songwriters and 64 professional musicians brought the songs to life. 13 engineers, working in recording studios across five states, created the final recordings. In total, “Warrior Songs Vol. 2: Women at War” was produced by the collaboration of 95 people, of whom 49 were women. Women at War won the Wisconsin Area Music Award Album of the Year for 2019.
Moon has long-range plans for Warrior Songs. Volume 4 featuring songs by veterans of color is scheduled for a 2023 release. Future themes are “Family, Friends, and Support,” “Native and Indigenous Voices,” “Injured and Disabled Veterans,” “Rainbow Warriors/LGBTQ ,” “Tales from the Combat Zone,” and “Women Veterans of Color.” By 2030 he hopes to release volumes 1 through 10 as a full box set. A supplementary 11th volume will explore the experiences of survivors of US wars.
The new CD, as well as volumes 1 and 2, are free for veterans and are available from Warriorsongs.org.
(text by Larry Abbott)
Excerpts from the CD songs (courtesy from Warrior Songs):
I’ve seen the war on television, seems so far away.
It could be me there on the screen, could happen any day.
Rice paddies, helicopters, Agent Orange and a jungle trail,
Body bags and stretchers, all while the mothers wail.
And will they call my name?
When I learn my fate?
Will I come home again?
(Lyrics: John Zutz & Danny Proud; Music: Lisa Johnson)