|I could blame the heat and humidity for slowing down with my historical fiction novel Nightingale, but the truth is, I’m discovering incredible new information about the reality of life in occupied Poland in World War Two.
One such source was a CIA report written by a Vice Consul living in Warsaw at the start of the war. The quality of writing was outstanding, and puts modern-day reports to shame. A fascinating blend of emotion, fact and assessment, I locked myself away for a weekend to go through it thoroughly.
And I wondered, as I read, hooked on every word, whether the author realised how important the little details he recorded would be for future generations.
I was fascinated by details about the way real people were impacted by the occupation. Professionals and those considered intelligentsia by the Germans either lost their lives or their livelihood, and struggled to make a living. Contrary to what I believed, the war effort didn’t result in a huge increase in jobs for the Poles – so making a living became difficult due to the high number of people in need of work; or dangerous, as those desperate for money turned to black marketeering.
I like to think I would be brave if faced with the same circumstances, but I don’t know if I could do what some of the young Poles did. Smuggling messages for the underground and losing their lives, challenging confronting Germans dishonouring the memory of fallen Polish soldiers and being killed for it, or being so passionate to learn that they took great risks to attend illegal schools.
So often the author noted that an individual disappeared, and were not heard of again.
Perhaps the only record of their bravery and fate is this record – a document which has profoundly impacted me, and I’m sure anyone else who has read it.
Reading this report has made me realise how important it is to record the details of life. If you have ever watched The Time Machine, based on the H. G Wells novel, you will recall how George is desperate to learn of the fate of mankind in the period between his own time in Victorian England, to the year 802,701. He spins talking rings which explain how humanity came to resemble a shell of its former self, and gained understanding of how he could help develop a society with the remaining people.
Details you might think are not important could one day matter a great deal.
It’s a great encouragement to take time for activities like scrap booking, journalling, printing and organising your photos, or sending an email update to friends and family.
And while it may seem indulgent amidst all the other competing priorities in your busy life, look at it as a gift to future generations, and future writers like me.
As we say in Fiji, wishing you a blessed weekend.