A Scottish Summer in ’69

By Natalie Lange

Sitting in her comfortable living room with a cup of black tea in her hand, Amy is surrounded by her playful grandchildren. While listening to their vivid stories, her thoughts trail off to times long gone when she herself was young.

It was the small hours of the morning on another warm summer day in 1969, a 14-year-old girl was the first one to arise in a little family house in the seaside town of Great Yarmouth. She tiptoed around the house, quickly grabbing a few belongings – clothes, money, a map, a YHA document, and a radio, before silently leaving her home. Nobody heard her leave.

Three days later, accompanied by her school friend Sophie, she found herself in the beautifully scenic Portknockie, a coastal village in the northern regions of Scotland.  Amy was 580 miles from her parents and her seven siblings back in Great Yarmouth. Portknockie, a village with just a few small shops and only one school, was a sleepy and serene settlement, where the street lights were turned off during the night and covered the town in darkness.  

“Everything in Portknockie was so different and peaceful compared to Great Yarmouth, which was a thriving town flooded with visitors back in 1969”, says Amy trailing off.

But why and how did these two 14-year-old girls escape to this cliff-top village, midway between Aberdeen and Inverness?

“I remember being furious with my parents for not letting me attend a Monkees concert in Wembley. Consumed by my anger I decided to go on holiday without asking for permission. I just ran off on an adventure with my friend the next morning”, says Amy.

“It was a foolish thing to do, but I was so upset with my parents, that I just ran away”, she remembers.

The teenagers decided to hitchhike their way to Scotland. “We were both excited as neither of us had hitchhiked before”, says Amy. The girls who were conscious of their safety decided they would hitchhike to the next city first. Thinking they would be safe as a pair, the girls made the decision to only accept rides from solo travelers. “It was the safest thing to do”, recalls Amy. Hitchhiking was a common phenomenon back in 1969, but perhaps not for young teenagers.

The girls arrived safe and sound in Lincoln, 130 miles from Great Yarmouth. After checking into a hostel, Amy contacted her parents and told them she was safe, but that she wasn’t coming home.

The next morning the girls accepted a ride from a middle-aged man in a red van. After some time, the man put his arm around Amy and touched her ear. “I was so frightened I could not move”, says Amy. The girls quickly asked the man to pull over. “While we were getting out of the van the man tried to pull me back inside, Sophie immediately grabbed my arm, pulling with all her might to free me from the man’s clutches”.

Reflecting on that exact moment, Amy remembers how desperate she was to escape. Sophie managed to pull her friend free and the two girls scrambled down the road and flagged down the first car they could see, with the man in the red van, watching all the while.

To their relief, a small car carrying two men, quickly pulled over and rescued the two girls who were visibly distressed and in shock.

The two kind men took the girls to Melrose and treated them to some lunch in a local tavern. The girls in desperate need of a plan decided they would continue to Portknockie in Scotland where Amy’s aunt lived.

It was 7 pm when the two girls arrived on the porch of Aunt Ina’s cottage.

Ina was shocked to find her niece and young friend Sophie on her doorstep.

“It was brave hitchhiking all the way to Scotland” admits Ina, shaking her head in disbelief “but at the same time a very foolish thing to do”. Once the girls were fed and bathed, Ina wrote a letter to her sister, Amy’s mother, to inform her that the girls had been located and were with her in Portknockie.

A young Amy wasn’t fazed by the chilling incident that took place in the red van and spent six weeks exploring Scotland with Sophie and her relatives before returning home in October of 1969.

Amy wasn’t keen to go back to school and didn’t have interest in her studies. “It was then that I decided that I don’t like the establishment and I became a bit of a rebel”, says Amy.

Fifty years on, Amy has a family of her own. Looking back, she admits that she can only imagine how her parents must have felt when they learned that their 14-year-old daughter was missing and had hitchhiked all the way to northern Scotland.

Amy, now 63, runs her own business and is devoted to her family. Every Friday she creates happy memories with her ten grandchildren, who fill her cosy little home in Great Yarmouth with laughter and joy.


 

Meet the Man Who Nearly Overturned Italian Democracy

By Gabriele Cruciata

In 1970 a fascist coup failed at the last minute in Italy. The man who was instructed to put a bullet in the president’s head tells his story to The Stand.

Angelo is 77 years old, and wrinkles pass all through his face. He lives in Cittaducale, a small village in central Italy, where he was born. He spent all his life here. His home is an old-fashioned flat filled with old knick-knacks. “Would you ever imagine I was about to kill the Italian President?” he asks.

During the night of 8th of December, 1970, in Cittaducale it was raining heavily. Junio Valerio Borghese, a fascist Italian aristocratic with a past in the naval force, organized a golpe for that night. The wildlife police were his closest partners in crime. At that time, Angelo was part of the wildlife police, whose main barracks was and still today is in Cittaducale.

“They ordered us to get prepared” he said, speaking in Italian. “We all thought it was a training, and we were so pissed off! After all, why do you organize a practice session during such a rainy night?”. Angelo remembers all the details from that night. “Our superiors organized a group of four trucks for a total of about 120 wildlife officers. I was in the leading truck, and this allowed me to have a good view of what was going on”.

When Angelo is asked to talk about how they felt inside the truck, a ghostly expression immediately appears on his face. “We were angry, of course. But as we spent lots of time on Via Salaria following signs for Rome, we progressively felt a sense of anxiety. Trainings were supposed to last for 30 or 40 minutes, no more. We were worried, we were in the heart of the Cold War”.

After some hours driving, the truck reached Rome. “We were seven or eight Kms from the national TV headquarters, while anxiety was growing. We didn’t have a clue of what was going on, and at some point my truck stopped. One of the Commanders rashly got out of the truck and approached two strange guys in the dark”.

Who were they?

“At first, I thought they were two frocioni having secret sex in the car, they were so strange!” he laughs. Frocioni is an Italian word for “fags”.

Did you manage to look at them?

“No, it was so dark, it was raining. But we really weren’t understanding why our Commander decided to stop for a pair of frocioni. When he came back into the truck, he wanted us to come back to our station. We made a U-turn and went back to Cittaducale. In that moment I realized they weren’t frocioni and that something serious was going on”.

In the following weeks and months, his life went back to its everyday routine. “Once, it was Sunday and I was at my parents’. My dad started to call me: “Angelo! Angelo! – he screamed – C’mon, c’mon, come here!”. When Angelo entered the room he found his dad in front of the TV. “He asked me “what the hell did you do? What did you do that night? Look!”.

TV news was reporting on Borghese’s Golpe, and I was involved in the story. I was there that night. I was involved in a fuckin’ coup, you know what I mean?”. It was March, 1971.

The next day, Angelo arrived at the wildlife police station. His workplace was surrounded by Carabinieri. They wanted to investigate on the coup d’état and question all the officers who worked that night. “When they called me – Angelo says – I was afraid. I remember a white, empty room with a desk. An officer was standing right behind it. When he started questioning me, he took a violent attitude. He screamed, he wanted to convince me to tell the truth about that night. He was furious, he tried to punch me in the face”.

When Angelo talks about the interrogation he gets nervous. It was at the end of his questioning that he discovered something he did not yet know: the role he would have had if the coup attempt had gone ahead.

“At the end, I was standing up to go away while he loudly told me You know what? You were expected to kill the President. I got a chill. “I was about to change our history”.

Still today nobody knows why the coup failed that night. Prosecutors know for sure that Angelo’s Commander phoned Junio Valerio Borghese immediately after meeting with the guys in the dark, and he was told to come back to the station. In 2004, thanks to the American Freedom of Information Act, Italian journalists discovered the “frocioni” were two American secret agents who ordered Borghese to stop the coup. Sicilian mafia was aware of the plot, as well. Borghese died in mysterious conditions in 1974.

“Sometimes I wonder how I saw two American secret agents deciding about a coup d’état during the Cold War. I’ve always been a simple person, my world is this small village, but my life intertwined with a coup in which America, secret services, fascists and mafia were involved. I still don’t know the word to describe it”.


 

The one night stand

Let’s Talk about Periods

By Clémence Waller

“You seem pissed off, are you on your period?”

“Really, it shouldn’t be talked about in public, this is a private issue.”

NOPE. Sit down ladies and gentlemen, we need to set some things straight as this affects everyone, women and men.

Before I start, I want to say that I do understand that not all women have periods and that not everyone that has a period is a woman. I am writing this in mind of anyone who does have to go through periods, regardless of their gender.

Periods are messy: yes. Can they be painful? Sometimes, depends on the person. Are they optional? No! Is it “normal”? HELL YES! Is Period Poverty real? Yes! Should it be? No!

So What Is It All About?

Quick recap for those of you who have never heard of this natural phenomenon. Periods are when someone’s body expels blood from their uterus and out their vagina. This process allows the body to eliminate the old uterus lining, avoid infections and clean out the space for a fresh new set up to welcome an eventual baby.

Think of it as a monthly deep clean of the oven so you can put a fresh bun in it.

It is understandable why, at first, this topic may make some of us uncomfortable, both male and female. You are practically bleeding for 5-10 days without dying. That’s some Walking Dead shit right there!

It sounds scary: sometimes women who go through it, experience unpleasant emotional and physical changes because hormones are playing tag in their body. But it is a completely natural, healthy process and talking about it, educating both boys and girls about it, is the only way to break the taboo that affects half the population.

It’s not “dirty”, it’s not “sinful” or “disgusting”, it’s just a process you have to go through once a month.

A Matter of Dignity

In 2015 Christian Eckert, a French politician compared his razor and shaving cream to be equally important or vital to men’s dignity as period pads or tampons are to women. To paraphrase Sophia Aram, French comedian: between his opinion and toilet paper, toilet paper has more value.

If a man does not shave, his dignity is not affected. Men have a choice whether or not they want a beard, most women do not have a choice about whether or not to have a period. Aunt Flow is coming at some point during the month, you just need to be ready for her when she does.

Ladies, who has not asked another female at least once, if she had a pad or a tampon because you got caught off guard?  Who here has not gone into a public bathroom hoping she had enough change to pay for a pad? That fear of standing up and revealing that bright red stain on your butt that screams “I’M ON MY PERIOD! I’M SO ASHAMED AND DIRTY”, is very real and it’s time to do away with this once and for all.

Gentlemen, who has not been asked at least once by a close female relative or significant other if they could go to the store to get an emergency supply of tampons or pads? Why is it so embarrassing or “emasculating” to help out a woman you love who is in need? Tampons and period pads are no more embarrassing to buy than pants or shirts. You need clothes in order to go out and about in society and menstruating women need these products to do the same.

In 2016 France finally reduced the taxation on female hygienic products from 21% to 5,5% (the standard first necessities rate throughout most of Europe, barring a few exceptions such as Italy at 22%). Whilst this reduction is absolutely a great way forward, the cost of these necessities still adds up to a hefty monthly and yearly budget. There is still more that can be done, like having social security cover part of the cost. Scotland has already made a landmark decision and is making period pads and tampons free for students and low-income women; more countries should follow this example.

A Violation of Human Rights

In Western Europe we are “lucky” in certain ways that we can shout out about our periods or talk about them more or less openly, however that is not the case for everybody.  In December 2016 a young Nepalese girl died of poor ventilation in a hut she had been exiled to during her menstruation as part of the Chaupadi ritual. Women should not have to be put in physical danger just because they are experiencing a non-optional biological phenomenon.

In France, in schools of disadvantaged neighborhoods, girls find themselves unable to afford period pads and schools are having budgetary trouble providing them to girls. In the US, Medicaid, SNAP and WIC don’t cover the cost of hygiene products as they are deemed “luxuries”. I can promise policy makers that anyone who has to go through periods does not feel that glamorous or luxurious.

In the UK one in ten women between the ages of 14-21 cannot afford period products and girls find themselves skipping school for fear of staining their uniforms. At this point this becomes not only a health issue, but also an educational one.

An important female demographic to consider who are severely impacted by period poverty would be homeless women and incarcerated women. These members of our society are unable to receive regular income to pay for those expensive products and so are forced into a situation that not only compromises their dignity but also their health.  

In 2017, the British charity Shelter estimated that 68,000 women were sleeping rough on the streets, in emergency housing or shelters. In an address in the house of commons Paula Sherriff explained that the government funds homeless shelters to buy condoms and razors but not sanitary products.  They have to rely on charitable donations for those. Homeless women have said that to cope, they makeshift their own sanitary products by ripping up socks, clothes and even stuffing newspaper in their underwear. They sometimes overuse their sanitary products which can lead to dangerous diseases such as toxic shock syndrome.

Incarcerated girls and women face similar problems. In Arizona state, female detainees are allowed on 12 pads a month. Any person who has had heavy flow periods will know that 12 pads may not be enough. These women are paid 15 cents an hour and have to pay for extra pads via the commissary, which charges them full retail price. Detainees are often forced to come up with alternative solutions to sanitary products, have to barter amongst themselves or ‘free bleed’.  

A bill was proposed in February of this year to combat this and was decided by a panel of nine men. Not a single woman was on the judging committee. In the UK, women are often left to bleed in their cells and do not have access to water to wash their hands. With restrictions to their access to affordable sanitary care, female detainees are constantly humiliated and their dignity discarded.

As part of the western world, we often laud ourselves in being nations that respect human rights and hold human dignity to a high standard. Women and any person who has periods are included in the word ‘human’. Article 3 of the European convention of Human Rights provides that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.  This is an absolute right. In laymen’s terms, under no circumstances are any member nations of this convention allowed to breach this basic human right. By denying sanitary products to the women that cannot afford them, their human rights are being violated.

So What Can We Do?

Period Poverty needs to end. This is not asking for special treatment or considerations, this is asking for basic respect. Make period products affordable and accessible to all so that we can achieve our full individual potential and give back to society.

All in all: be cool, support women who are menstruating by supporting initiatives that make period products accessible and affordable, donate pads and tampons to local charities and go with the Flow.

Peace.


 

Stolen Van Gogh Paintings Found “By Chance”

By Gabriele Cruciata

Back in 2016, the Italian police discovered two stolen Van Gogh paintings in a suspected mafia boss’ house. An anonymous source told The Stand that officers weren’t looking for the missing paintings.

On the 7th December 2002 two men climbed a wall of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. They broke in through a window and stole two paintings that hung on a wall on the first floor. Fourteen years later the Italian police found the paintings in Castellammare di Stabia, 25 kilometres away from Naples. “Those paintings were found by chance during an anti-mafia inspection,” tells an anonymous policeman The Stand.

“By chance”, a key expression. “That day we were called to inspect a mafia boss’ villa. We didn’t expect to find those masterpieces at all”, the source said. Raffaele Imperiale, the suspect, had collected Van Gogh’s works for many years. He’s on a trial now. His lawyers are trying to get his sentence reduced because of his collaboration with the police. But our scoop provides information not known to the judges, who are ruling in the Imperiale trial.

One of the stolen paintings is titled View of the Sea at Scheveningen (1882) and it is “one of the first works Van Gogh made without the supervision of his teacher Anton Mauve,” says Axel Rüger, Van Gogh Museum’s Director. The other one, Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen (1884), “was made while the painter was living with his parents, therefore this work is of biographical value as well” he adds.

After the two paintings were returned to Amsterdam two years ago, the museum organised a press conference. On that occasion, Rüger declared: “We can close the door on this particularly painful period in our history. I’ve been looking forward tremendously to the day when we could show these two gems to our public again. That day has come, and they finally have a face and a voice again.”

The Italian policeman told The Stand Imperiale could not have easily sold the paintings on the illegal market. “People who steal artworks are generally excellent thieves, but terrible art critics” he said. “They usually don’t know how important some documents are. Nobody will illegally buy a Van Gogh without the documents stating the painting is original”.


 

New VR Treatment Gives Hope for Phantom Pain Relief

By Tadhg O’ Sullivan

Phantom pain is the term used to describe sensations felt by amputees, which may include tingling, itching, twisting, cramping, pins-and-needles, stabbing pains, pressure, a sense of fullness as if the limb was still there, but slightly swollen. Up to 90 percent of amputees experience this pain.

It is not fully known what causes phantom pain, but it has been hypothesised by experts in the field that the unnatural transection of the nerves and where they end can induce discharges which the nervous system reads as pain.

The University Medical Centre Groningen (UMCG) is the sole academic centre in the Netherlands participating in a worldwide study involving virtual reality (VR) and how it can be used to treat phantom pain.

In the study, patients are treated with virtual reality and augmented reality training. Virtual reality is simulating reality with computers. Augmented reality is the addition of digital information to reality.

During the treatment, the participants move their phantom arm or leg by tightening muscles in their stump. The training consists of a number of computer games. During the treatment, the participants see themselves on a computer screen and whilst playing the games their muscle activity is registered via the electrodes.

Before and after each treatment, participants complete a questionnaire about their phantom pain. “At the moment we can’t fully comment on the research as we have only finished the preliminary tests with our first test group. There is still more work to be done before we can conclusively talk about improvements.” Said a spokesperson for the extremities pain and disability programme at UMCG.

However, she later added that “One member from the first test group reported that they woke up for the first time in 23 years without phantom pain which of course is wonderfully encouraging.”

The study could turn out to be a breakthrough in a field that really has no other pain relief method that has proven to be universal with amputees.

A spokesperson for the Netherlands amputee football federation said that although he was unfamiliar with the exact details he had heard one or two people talk about VR treatment and is excited about the possibilities.

“Of course, it is a problem big and small for most of our members so any breakthrough like the one in Groningen would be amazing.”

UMCG will continue with the study and are hopeful that VR treatment can soon become a regular treatment option for amputees.


 

C’est la Révolution!

By Clémence Waller

Monique Lafay (71), can’t remember what she was doing when policemen barged into her neighbor’s apartment. She remembers the shouts, muffled sounds of struggles and facing angry policemen, as she discovered they were arresting her student neighbors for assembling Molotov cocktails in their bedroom. What she did not realise was that she was suspected of doing the same.

She recalls her 21-year-old self, a law student at the Université Claude Bernard in Lyon, being petrified. As the two policemen glared, barked at and questioned her, she quickly assured them she had nothing to do with the student riots, and insisted the police talk to her neighbors and the family of the little boy she babysat that lived downstairs. Satisfied with her alibi, they left with the two students and shoved them in the back of the police van, while Monique was left alone.

Violence, suspicion and even deaths. «C’est la chienlit!» It is chaos/shit in the bed!  Never have there been more fitting words to describe the turmoil of the French student population of 1968. This nationwide student protest was inspired by student revolts throughout Europe and the 1964 Berkeley Free Speech Movement to protest the Vietnam war.  These protests were sparked by a sense of “asphyxiation” and the classic French ‘ras-le-bol’ with the bourgeoisie, strangling social constrictions and the ruling elite.

The protests started peacefully; streets deafened by the roars of thousands during marches, colorful signs hoisted up high, displaying slogans against gender segregation in schools, job insecurity and finally the blockading of Parisian Universities, Nanterre and La Sorbonne.

But egged on by Daniel Cohn-Bendit, “Danny the Red”, a young student revolutionary, the student protests took on a more violent and political turn.

Chaos in the streets

On May 2nd 1968, the police were dispatched to violently bring an end to this blockade, injuring hundreds of Parisian students. Outrage bled throughout the nation as various other universities were held hostage by students, including Lyon, where Monique was studying. By May 24th, the workers and the unions had joined the fray.

However, the spark for reform roared into the uncontrollable wildfire that would ensue a paralyzed country, riots, paranoia, looting and even deaths.

Students rioting, police brutality, charred bins smoking, makeshift barricades, sirens blaring: this is what Lyon looked like from May to June 1968. Monique had a front row seat to the unfolding events as she was part of the minority of students who did not protest.

After seven years in convent school, she recalls the shock she felt when seeing her generation stand-up against the ruling class. “I did not have the revolutionary mentality,” she laughs sarcastically. These memories bring up a strange sensation within her, one of bemusement but also criticism. “The protests started out fine, then quickly degenerated into a mess,” she recalls as other groups tagged onto the student movement and started vandalizing public buildings and institutions.

“What shocked me the most was finding out that people had been killed on Lafayette Bridge,” she exclaims. She refers to the bloody night of the 24th of May 1968, where René Lacroix, police commissioner, was killed by a runaway truck on the infamous Lyon Bridge amidst another violent altercation between youth and police. This incident resulted in the first death of the May 1968 protests, as well as 42 injuries and over 200 arrests.

A nation held hostage

“I loathed masses and protests then and I still do today. I also didn’t feel especially oppressed nor did my family have the money to waste on me having to redo a year because I was protesting.”

Monique recalls her annoyance when she was unable to work during the summer due to having to study for her exams, which had been postponed to September. For the rest of France, the events in Paris on May 10th-11th 1968 led to a nationwide strike in solidarity with the students. Shopkeepers no longer had any food to sell, nor was there any petrol being dispensed at the gas stations. Trains, factories and post offices also went on strike. “The country was completely paralyzed.”  

She quickly added that despite not taking part in the protests, it brought about some positive changes. “In my view, women won the most out of those protests. There was a liberation of speech, a de-stigmatization of women taking the pill for example. There was less bitterness, more freedom and fraternization. More women went into the workplace and asked for divorces.”

The youth sent out the message that they would not just be seen, they would be heard and that message was received loud and clear. “Even today, the government still fears students,” Monique smiles cheekily.


 

The St. Phelim Tragedy

By Rebekah Daunt

On Sunday the 24th of March 1968, Betty Allshire decided to take a break from her household chores and stepped out into her beautiful garden to enjoy the morning sunshine.

The air was crisp and clean, everything was still, and the only sounds to be heard were those made by a few scattered birds singing in the trees overhead.

Betty’s eldest son William and daughter Judy had left for church with their father half an hour earlier. Betty, a regular churchgoer, had decided to stay at home this particular morning and care for her youngest daughter Anne who was feeling ill because she demolished far too much birthday cake at a friend’s birthday party the day before. The little girl was now paying the price for her sins and was curled up in bed, nursing a tummy ache.

After carefully selecting some daffodils to fill a vase on the kitchen table, Betty gradually became aware of the sound of propellers and the earth started to vibrate beneath her feet.

Her eyes were drawn skyward as an aircraft came into view; the roar of the engine filled the air. “It was the 10:30 Aer Lingus Flight to London,” she exclaimed, “Cork Airport was very quiet back then, it was easy to identify the planes flying in and out, they ran like clockwork!”.

Betty confesses that she remembers feeling a pang of jealousy at the time and would have loved to be jetting off on that plane.

Later that afternoon, Betty sat down to a late lunch with her loving husband and three children in the kitchen of their family home.

The sound of a news bulletin hummed on the radio in the background. Conversation at the table was soon brought to a standstill as the headlines began to unfold. The family, almost choking on their steaming bowls of tomato soup, listened in horror as the top news story unravelled.

An Aer Lingus plane, named St. Phelim, had gone down off the coast of Wexford. The aircraft en-route from Cork to London plummeted 17,000 feet into the Irish Sea, killing all 61 people on-board.

Funeral of some of Tuskar Rock air crash victims at St. Finbarr’s Cemetery on March 30, 1968 (courtesy of the Irish Examiner)

Betty, a former administrator, could hardly believe what she was hearing.

Mrs. Allshire, who will be celebrating her 80th  birthday this October, recalls feeling lost for words at the lunch table. “I could not understand why this had happened; it was such a calm and beautiful day. I had seen the plane shortly after takeoff. A plane crash seemed so unlikely.”

As covered by the Irish Examiner, experts proposed that the plane might have been stuck by migrating birds. Others suggested that the crash was due to a mechanical failure or a collision with a target drone or missile.

Bonnie Gangelhoff, daughter to American passengers Mary and Joseph Gangelhoff, reflected on the crash that killed her parents to the Irish Times in 2009. An investigation into the crash was published in 1970 and a second in 2002.

50 years on, the cause of the crash has yet to be determined.

“This tragedy is like being hit by a double whammy,” said Bonnie, “no definite answers about why the plane went down and no bodies to bury.”

Investigators believe that the Captain of St. Phelim, Barney O’Beirne (35), fought to keep the plane in the air for 30 minutes after take-off before spiralling out of control and crashing into the sea  near Tuskar Rock.

London Air Traffic Control received a broken message from the captain that was later interpreted as “12,000 feet, descending, spinning rapidly”. London ATC never heard from the aircraft again. According to RTÉ news, a full alert was sounded once London ATC lost contact, but it was too late.

Today the pilots on board are remembered as the first recipients of the Wright Brothers Award which honours exceptional service to aviation.

Only 14 bodies were recovered from the jet which had Irish, British, Swiss and Belgian passengers and crew on-board. According to the Irish Times, this was worst crash involving an aircraft in Irish history.

“It was a very sad time for the family and friends of the victims and we were simply devastated for them,” reflects Betty.

Betty will never forget how helpless she felt for all those involved. A woman of great faith, she firmly believes that life is precious, a gift from God. “Live every day to the full, none of us know when our days will come to an end.”

Concluding with a quote by Abraham Lincoln, Mrs. Allshire confirms the importance of making the most of the present day. “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”


 

1968, The Year of Raging Reforms

By Valerie Scholz

1968, a turbulent year of worldwide student protests. In German metropolises, demonstrations are almost on the daily agenda. Pharmaceutics student Klaus Scholz is on his way from Karlsruhe to Berlin, making use of his short Easter holiday for an obligatory family visit. But this is not the sole purpose of his trip. He has come to raise his voice.

The trees lining the West-Berliner Ku’damm sway in the evening breeze. However, the wind does not carry the familiar fresh scent of spring, instead, a burnt stench is in the air. Thousands of tromping footsteps and monotonously aggressive chanting “Gestern Dutschke, morgen wir!” drowns out all other noise and rings in Klaus’ ears.

West-Berlin 1968: loud, bold and rebellious. The age of subordination and courteousness lies in the past. The gap between youth and the elderly is widening. Daringly short skirts, extravagant outfits, and deafening rock music on one side, incomprehension and conservative ideologies on the other. Young West-Berliners don’t want to fit in. They want to provoke.

Provocation for Change

German students sparked an anti-authoritarian movement all over the country, condemning any type of control, whether of familial, educational or political nature. Protests began as a response to war, grievances and injustices around the world. Students fought for a free society and a reform of the archaic system.

“The protests were meant for provocation”. New forms of demonstrating were established, “Go-ins” or “Sit-ins” included the siege of public spaces. Hand-drawn banners often declared entertaining statements instead of political slogans.

“Part of the Movement”

Klaus’ first contact with the movement occurred in the sleepy town of Karlsruhe. One day, students gathered in front of his institute. They argued and chanted phrases: “Unter den Talaren – Muff von 1000 Jahren”, referring to the still deeply enrooted fascism in institutions and the previous generation’s way of life.  

“We were demanding a self-purification”, Klaus says with a sparkle in his eyes. “Things that had been kept secret for years finally came up”. The students believed that the country ought to be cleansed of former national socialist partisans and mentality. “We were there to tidy up!”

“It felt so good to be part of something, to be part of the movement”, Klaus remembers. At each side of the city’s main road Kaiserstraße, the virtuous citizens of Karlsruhe gasped at the procession of hundreds of marching students. Some linking arms, others holding painted banners, where crooked letters formed phrases like “THE OLD NAZIS HAVE TO GO!”.

The “Revolution’s” Crash-Landing

However, protests were not peaceful everywhere. “It escalated more and more”, Klaus’ voice darkens. What started off with enthusiasm and optimism, ended in a civil-war-like situation.

Only a few days before Klaus’ trip to Berlin, the attempted assassination of Rudi Dutschke by a Hitler-sympathizer appalled Germany’s student population. Dutschke was a leading figure of the Socialist German Student Union (SDS) and stood for the student movement.

Following the assassination of peacefully protesting student Benno Ohnesorg in 1967 by a West-Berliner policeman, the attack on yet another student fueled an uncontrollable rage and desire for revenge amongst the protestors. Instead of de-escalation, police forces fought rage with violence.

Klaus gasped at the scene in front of him. The West-Berliner Ku’damm resembled a battlefield. On one side troops of policemen wearing ankle-length dark coats, their grimacing faces half covered by helmets, fists clenched around their truncheons, desperately attempting to stop the raging students. Opposing them, burning torches, raised fists and blind hatred.

The water cannons behind the police defence line spurt water that hits the front lines of protesters with the force of bricks.

Klaus had set out to Berlin with faith and pride but left with disappointment and bewilderment. “You always ran after the mass as a student”. However, witnessing the violence on both sides of the conflict in the streets of Berlin, Klaus distanced himself: “It had gone too far, I never wanted this.”

The Wake-Up Call

Despite condemning the violence, Klaus is confident that the 1968 student movement has positively affected Germany politically, socially and culturally.  

Although the riots did not bring a grand revolution, they were a “wake-up call”. They caused a break with the authoritarian past and allowed the society to move forward with increasingly more personal and sexual freedom.

“When I was young, I always focused on the easygoing sides of life: sports and nice girls”, Klaus smirked. The events of 1968 woke him up too and perhaps marked his first step from the “blindly naive young man” to the reflecting adult of today.

“You have to go out there and do something” in order for change to occur. Today as a pensioner and author, Klaus has found literature to be his voice of revolution. In his novels he holds a mirror up to society, seeking to facilitate progress. Just like 50 years ago.


Feature image shows Klaus Scholz (left) and fellow students in midst of an animated discussion

The Day that Changed Greece Forever Through the Eyes of a Boy

The Day that Changed Greece Forever, Through the Eyes of a Boy

By Dimitra Karapanagiotou

“The military has taken over the governance of the country,” stated an early morning radio announcement in the year 1967. Themis Karapanagiotis was only nine years old when these words transformed the political scene of Greece and the lives of the whole nation. The 21st of April would be a day he would never forget.

On that day the people of Athens came across a bizarre sight: military tanks were positioned all around the city and in the perimeter of the parliament. Uniformed men carrying guns were on the streets and it was clear for every passer-by that democracy was now a thing from the past.

In fact, that was the beginning of the Greek military junta, the dictatorship that would last seven years and polarize the nation. The regime aimed to crush communism and bring back the traditional values that would make the country the “Greece of Greek Christians” (ΕλλάςΕλλήνωνΧριστιανών) once again.

During those years human rights were violated, suspected communists were jailed, tortured and exiled, while people all around the country lived in constant fear of a possible arrest.

This situation was obvious since the first day of the dictatorship, as Themis recalls.

“I was only nine back then so I couldn’t understand much. I remember that I went to school and they told us to go back home,” Themis says. “We were just happy not to be at school, we didn’t know how serious the situations was.”

But after going home he soon found out that something was wrong. The radio, the main source of information for rural Greece at the time, kept playing military marching music instead of the usual songs, while official state announcements kept being broadcasted every few minutes.

“Those announcements were scary and confusing. They listed all the laws and articles that were no longer valid, I couldn’t understand a thing. They kept saying all the things that were forbidden. No more than three people in a group, no going out at night, no this and no that – nothing was allowed anymore!” he exclaims with frustration.

Kimmeria however, was not just an ordinary Greek village. Known as the home of the communists and nicknamed among the locals as “Little Moscow”, the village immediately became the target of arrests.

“The police came and arrested people that were known to be communists. They didn’t say where they were taking them, not even their families knew where they were. We only found out about the exiles and all the other atrocities when the dictatorship was over, years later.”

These arrests were truly traumatizing for the young boy as many of his friends’ parents and his neighbours disappeared, but they also created a fear that was more personal.

“I lived with my grandparents back then. My grandfather was a communist, he fought during the civil war. He used to have trouble with the law and was even in exile for years before the dictatorship, so he just stayed quiet, he didn’t want to get arrested and leave us alone,” Themis says.

What he distinctly remembers from the 21st of April is the quiet. “People were numb. No one said a word, they were all afraid that someone will tell on them if they said something negative. I now understand that they must have been terrified.”

Today, Themis can still remember everything that happened during the seven years of the Greek military junta. “Growing up during that time, it changes you,” he says bitterly. “But these experiences made me believe in democracy and freedom. I could never support such a regime.”

Although the Regime of the Colonels, as it was known, ended by the year 1974, the wounds it left behind remain. “That period changed my country, it divided the people and it still does.”

In fact, the regime has supporters even today. With the economic crisis and the current political state of the country, many people idealize the regime as the only way for the country to truly recover.

Although such authoritarian beliefs are widespread across the country, Themis remains optimistic that the dark times of the dictatorship will never come to be again. “I can’t imagine how this could happen again. Things are very different now.”

 

The Red Guard in China’s Cultural Revolution – Join or be ‘Destroyed’

By Yujia Yang

Green military cap and uniform, Sam Browne belts, red armbands (always on the left arm), Little Red Book held tightly – the typical dress of the Red Guard during China’s Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. “They were the biggest nightmare when I was 16 years old”, says Xianping Wang, 66, a retired Chinese teacher from Guiyang Shengfu Road Primary School.

Wang took a deep breath and recalled her story, “One Sunday afternoon in March 1968, a small group of Red Guard broke into my house when I was having a nap with my sister and my parents were at work. A woman, a member of the Guard,spoke to my sister. She said, ‘Xianling, we are now 20 years old. Do not go to university to listen to those rubbish things. It is time to join us, like me, to devote ourselves to Chairman Mao’s revolutionary cause!’ Her tone became cold; she threatened my sister that they would confiscate our property and take me away if sherefused to join them and be one of the adherents of Mao. In fact, she was a childhood friend of my sister, even I regarded her as my second sister, but…” Wang stops and looks miserable.

The Red Guard group was first formed by China’s youth in response to Mao Zedong’s call to propagandise his ‘true’ communist ideology. It rapidly grew around the country and became a mass organisation, including farmers, literary and artistic workers and neighbourhood committees. As a political propaganda tool, the Red Guard was under protection and enjoyed the personal support of Mao; this meant they could do anything they wanted like taking away anyone they suspected of being a counterrevolutionary.

(Source: Baidu)

“The woman gave my sister no chance to answer. After she had finished, she immediately left. But the rest of members loudly read out their slogan ‘战无不胜的毛泽东思想万岁!’ (Long live the invincible Mao Zedong thought!), and started to search my house; everything was dumped on the floor, everything.” Wang continues in a trembling voice: “There was nothing we could do; my sister and I just stood there and watched. We had no idea what had happened and why they were doing this to us.” Wang still looks confused, even now. She continues: “Previously, other groupsof Red Guard just came to propagandise and tried to find out whether we had any ‘forbidden books’ like foreign literature. Normally, they just burned any books they found, and left.”

“I felt every organ of my body cease to operate as soon as I heard it, because I was indescribably scared. Since that day, I have continually had nightmares about someone taking me away.” Wang pauses for a few seconds to calm herself down. Then, she begins again, “My sister embraced me, and kept comforting me that she would not let it happen. After telling our parents what had happened, Xianling insisted that she would join the Red Guard in order to keep me safe, because she believed that the Red Guard could do anything if people disobeyed them. Of course, my parents disagreed and my father suggested that our whole family might pretend to move, while in fact only my parents would return to their old home on weekdays while my sister and I stayed at home.”

During the decade of China’s Cultural Revolution, there were also many organisations that lined up on mass against the Red Guard groups. Wang’s sister, Xianling, had entered Guizhou University in 1966, just after the Cultural Revolution had begun; she founded a student newspaper with her friends, aiming to help the public to keep hope by publishing positive articles about China’s real history, society, politics and economy. Wang says: “My sister always tells me not to give up hope for the future.”

“I read all of articles from their newspaper when I holed up in my room. I can feel the power of words that cheered me up and made me determine to do as the same as my sister did.” Wang continues with a slight smile, “After one month, we were finally able to go out because the local government suppressed the Red Guard, as some Red Guard groups were out of control. In the next few years, my sister and I wrote articles together and contributed to many newspapers not just local until Cultural Revolution truly ended in 1977. Then we became teachers because we believed that our next and future generation will have material effects on our society, so correct education is vital.”

“Although, Cultural Revolution was an extreme dark period for China, we still need to remember and reflect on it. The most beautiful rainbows come after the worst storms.”