by Phoebe Bosché
“I couldn’t live the rest of my life
knowing I’d failed to do my bit.”
Those Bastards; they shot her. It was near the
end of the war (WWII), so there was no real
reason for it, except that Heil Hitler wanted to make a statement, as he did with the British who launched the Great Escape, doing their
duty as they saw it, the British version of what it means to be a Gentleman and Soldier, and then, as a face-saving gesture, Hitler ordered
the murder of 50 of them who did make it out of Stalag Luft 3; but still, they shot her. I can’t get over the senselessness of it. As if it should
mean something if one is killed in an Act of War.
I’m talking about Violette Szabo. And even though this happened at the end of WWII, and she was a British agent
parachuted into France by the SOE in advance of the Normandy invasion of June 6, 1944, what happened to her is happening still.
And even though the bastards who shot her were German, in the present circumstances, she could be murdered by Americans, or Pakistanis,
Iraqis, Russians; and instead of being shot, her head might be chopped off: what does it matter who kills you? It is still senseless.
I keep thinking, in my tossing and turning, when trying to sleep these mid-days in this year of 2008: it does matter that
we know of the sacrifices of others, and that we understand what it means to sacrifice one’s life, to make possible our current greedy way of
living, especially as lived now, in Seattle, in 2008.
People are poisoning trees? In Seattle? I know that it has happened in the past, in small neighborhoods, say in Mount Baker, in Bradner Park,
where racial tensions were and still are high and gentrification is more than a buzz word in the P.I. or the Seattle Times, but the poisoning events
didn’t get much publicity outside the neighborhood.
What would we, artists and writers, do if we were put up (literally) against a wall, and threatened? Or worse? Would we question the commercial
work we make a living at, even if it supports horrors like animal testing? Seattle is fast becoming, with the bio-tech industry — look to Eastlake’s
and South Lake Union’s proliferation of new research-oriented buildings — one of our nation’s leaders in the testing and torture of animals in the
name of Science (cancer research).
Back to Violette. Why am I so captivated with WWII? Besides the fact that my father, Richard Bosché, who was a high school track star and boxer
in Long Beach, California, fought, after a short time in jail, against the Japanese: landed on Leyte Island with the Army infantry, lost a lung after
being shot by a sniper, left for dead by his comrades, then spent the rest of his life refusing to talk about his experiences?
There is a scene in Carve Her Name With Pride, the 1958 movie made by British Rank Films about Szabo (starring Virginia McKenna of later Born
Free fame), where she is captured by the Gestapo (21.40 minutes left in the film), and she is being questioned by a smooth-tongued, suit-wearing
agent. She leans against a cell wall scrawled with what we would now consider graffiti (actually the last wills and testaments of folks unfortunate
enough to find themselves in a situation without visible hope of escape), and the name nearest her left elbow reads: Lucille Bosché. Is this a sign
to me from the past?
It is never too late to recapture our histories; rehear with renewed attention the stories that brought us to the present and will help
us move into the future. In this issue, on Legacies, small and large, many of us do just that.
I dedicate my memories today to folks like Steven Jesse Bernstein (there are several Bernstein artifacts in this issue), who mentored many young
writers and attempted, in the short time he let us have with him, to make us focus our attentions and art on the things that mattered: compassion,
community, and love. And Grace. Especially Grace.
In an unuttered prayer, with each issue, we try, “in all our works, begun, continued, and ended,” to give pleasure and comfort, to you, our readers.
Raven Editor, co-Publisher