Heroes – Hannah Senesh

I discovered Hannah Senesh only a couple of weeks ago thanks to my friend John Wilkinson who posted a memorial on his Facebook page.

Hannah was born on July 17th 1921 in Budapest to an assimilated Jewish family. Her father Bela was a playwright and journalist, he passed away when Hannah was six years old. Her mother Katherine and her brother Gyorgy were her only family. She was enrolled  in a protestant private school for girls which also took Catholic and Jewish students provided they paid extra exorbitant fees for the privilege. This and the developing plight of the Jews in Hungary led her to join the Zionists student’s organization.

Hannah was eighteen when she graduated in 1939 and emigrated to Palestine (then known as The British Mandate of Palestine). She studied at the girl’s agricultural school at Nahalal.  Two years later she joined the paramilitary group, Hagenah and in 1943 she enlisted in the British Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. Later that year Hannah joined the Special operations executive (SOE)

On March 14th 1944 Hannah and her colleagues parachuted into Yugoslavia and joined a partisan group. However, because the Germans had already occupied Hungary the mission was called off. The plan had been to rescue Hungarian Jews before they were taken to the gas chambers. Not to be beaten Hannah and her colleagues headed to the Hungarian border where they were arrested by Hungarian gendarmes who discovered her British military transmitter.

Hannah was taken to prison where  the Nazi’s brutally beat and punished her for three days  but she would not reveal the code for her transmitter or the identity of the parachutists. They even arrested her mother and threatened to kill her if she did not cooperate. Hannah was tried and found guilty of treason but didn’t betray her cause and was loyal to the end.

Not to be defeated, while she was in prison Hannah used a mirror to flash signals out of the window to prisoners in other cells and also communicated with large cut out letters which she placed one at a time in her window. Whenever she was able, she would draw the star of David in the dust.

Hannah was executed by firing squad on November 7th 1944. Her remains were returned to Israel in 1950. After the Cold War the Hungarian Military Court officially exonerated her. Hannah had written the following in her diary, “In the month of July I shall be twenty-three/I played a number in a game/the dice have rolled. I have lost.”

Akin to her father Hannah had also been a playwright and a poet writing in both Hungarian and Hebrew. One of her poems Eli, Eli, (“My God My God”) was put to music and sung to close some versions of the movie Schindler’s List. The lyrics are:-

My God, My God, I pray that these things never end,

The sand and the sea,

The rustle of waters,

Lightning in the Heavens,

The Prayer of Man.

In Brooklyn N.Y. there is a K-8  (Kindergarten to Grade 8) Community Day School named in her honour.

Hannah! You boldly and bravely packed a lifetime into your 23 years. We Salute you!

Hannah Senesh

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Heroes – Alfred the Great

Alfred, the youngest  son of the Saxon King Ethelwulf was not meant to be on the Wessex throne. His father died when he was very young and his three older brothers took their turn reigning. However, they all subsequently died and at the age of twenty-two Alfred became king, ruling Wessex  from Winchester between 871 – 886. Although Alfred had Kingship thrust upon him it seems he had a sense that he had been especially destined for this high office.

Not only did Alfred manage to keep the Danish Vikings out of Wessex but he achieved the liberation of neighbouring areas from Viking control also. He became king of the Anglo Saxons from 886-899 and paved the way for the future unity of England which was brought to fruition by his son and Grandsons. By the mid tenth century the England we are familiar with today was ruled as one country for the first time.

Alfred considered that he was the defender of the Christian Anglo-Saxon faith and held the view that all in authority (in Church or State) could not act justly or effectively without the knowledge or wisdom acquired through study. He set up schools to ensure just that. Alfred translated Latin works into Old English and encouraged the nobles in his court to read and study.  He wrote an in-depth Law-code and revolutionized the country’s legal system. Known as Common-Law it was basically the same law we have today, one law for everyone rich and poor alike.

Alfred is quoted as saying “He seems to me a very foolish man, and very wretched, who will not increase his understanding while he is in the world.” Well, we would agree with that I’m sure. Why would you not want to make the most of your time here on earth to improve yourself, learn as much as you can and let it influence your everyday life.

(By the way, if all you knew about Alfred the Great was that he burnt the cakes I’m sorry to say it is a myth. The story is documented as only appearing three hundred years after he died – around 1200AD)

On the 20th September 1901, at the unveiling of Alfred’s statue on the date of his Millenary celebrations  Lord Rosebery said. “ Mr Mayor, My Lords and Gentlemen, we are here today to consecrate a great memory and to raise before our countrymen the standard of a great example. For 1000 years ago there died in this city one who by common consent represents the highest type of kingship and the highest type of Englishmen.”

At the end of one of King Alfred’s translations he wrote a prayer, this is the latter part of the prayer. “For thou art my Maker and my Redeemer, my life, my comfort, my trust and my hope. Praise and glory be to Thee now and forever and unto endless ages. Amen.”

Some King eh?

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The statue of Alfred the Great unveiled in Winchester

 

 

 

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Heroes – Mary Lee

Today is International Women’s Day and I thought I’d share with you the story of a feisty little lady whom I consider to be a hero.

Mary Lee was a widowed Irish immigrant to Australia. She was 58 years of age when she and her daughter Evelyn arrived in South Australia. They came to take care of her sick son John, leaving her other three sons and two daughters in Ireland. Her husband had been a Methodist Minister and she herself had a staunch faith. When John died a year later, she could not afford to return to Ireland so remained in what she called her ‘dear Adelaide’ and dedicated her life to political and social reform.

Mary was an eloquent and outspoken woman, unafraid of controversy, she worked with the destitute, in particular women and children. Within six years of arrival in Australia in 1883 her tireless work is credited with getting the age of consent lifted from thirteen to sixteen. Mary was successful in achieving votes for women in 1894 whilst the Suffrage movement in London took another three decades to catch up in 1928.

Initially in 1889 and 1893 the Adult Suffrage Bill  was defeated but was submitted to parliament in South Australia in 1894 again. Apparently, the bill included the right of women to stand for Parliament because cunning politicians thought that this inclusion would stop the bill from getting through. They were sure that the majority of politicians would not want a woman in Parliament. However, Mary and the ladies of the Women’s Suffrage League presented a petition with an amazing eleven thousand six hundred signatures and the bill was passed unanimously. She was now 73 years old.

Not interested in standing for parliament, Mary continued to campaign to get women to register to vote. Within two years she had encouraged 70,000 women to do so.  South Australia was the first Legislation worldwide to allow women the vote. Sadly, having financed her public work herself she passed away almost penniless in 1909 at the age of 88.

Marys work remained unrecorded until 1980 and in 1994 a bust was erected in Adelaide which shares one of her quotes “My aim is to leave the world a better place for women than I found it.”

Why am I telling this story? Because it was news to me and I thought others ought to know. It’s a great reminder of what dedication can achieve. We may not be articulate or ferocious campaigners like Mary but, we can all strive to be better at what we do every day. Ecclesiastes 9:10 reads “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”

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Mary Lee

 

 

 

 

 

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Heroes – Witold Pilecki

Witold Pilecki was born on the 13th May 1901, the fourth of five children. He joined the Polish army at the age of seventeen, just before the end of the first world war. Having returned home he finished his education and then went on to the University of Poznan in Poland in 1921. It would be another decade before he married his wife Maria and was blessed with a son and daughter Andrzej and Zofia.

Witold was a model citizen, he was an amateur painter and very active in his community in various ways. He was also a social worker and was awarded the Silver Cross of Merit for his community activism and social work.

In 1939 when the Germans invaded Poland Witold rejoined the Polish Army as a Cavalry platoon officer. He was a Catholic and a Polish patriot and viewed his struggle as a moral and patriotic duty. Captain Witold Pilecki volunteered to be arrested by the Germans so that he would be sent to the newly opened Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz. This would allow him to inform the Polish underground of what was happening inside the Camp.

Now known as prisoner 4859 he gathered intelligence and sent it to the underground Polish army for over two years. During this time, he suffered brutal conditions and near starvation to detail Nazi interrogation and execution methods. The report Witold released from Auschwitz was among the first eyewitness accounts of Auschwitz atrocities, the extermination of POW’s, its function as a camp for political prisoners and the “final solution” for Jews.

The allies put off any aid (and some even accused Witold of exaggerating) so he and two others cut the phone and alarm lines to the camp and escaped.  Poland’s chief Rabbi stated, “If heeded, Pilecki’s early warnings might have changed the course of History.

After the war Witold continued to gather intelligence though this was now against the Soviet regime in Poland and passed on to the Polish government-in-exile based in London.  Sadly, he was arrested by the communists in 1948 and charged with spying for the West. After severe torture and a ‘show’ trial, he was sentenced to death.

He was shot in the back of the head by ‘The Butcher of Mokotow prison’. They wiped his name from the public record after his execution and he was buried in an unknown grave. However, nothing remains hidden forever and after the fall of the Berlin wall, all was revealed. (Posthumously, he was awarded Poland’s highest honour. ‘The order of the white eagle’ in 2006.)

At his trial Witold told the court, “I tried to live my life in such a fashion so that in my last hour, I would rather be happy than fearful. I find happiness in knowing the fight was worth it.” 

I am reminded of the words of St Paul. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. From now on there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.” (2 Timothy 4:7

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Witold’s story is told in a book titled ‘The Volunteer’ by Jack Fairweather, a British War Correspondent. It won the Costa book award of the year in 2019.

 

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Heroes – Vivian Bullwinkel

On February the 16th I was reminded on the ABC lunchtime news that it was 78 years since Vivian Bullwinkle survived the Bangka Island Massacre.

Until a couple of years ago I had never heard of this World War 2 heroine. Nurse Bullwinkel was captured when the Japanese sank the hospital ship SS Vyner Brooke after the fall of Singapore. She, along with fellow nurses spent 24 hours clinging to a life boat before they struggled ashore with other survivors. The Japanese marched all 22 nurses and one elderly civilian woman into the sea on Bangka Island although it was quite apparent that these nurses, wearing  red cross emblems on their sleeves, were non-combatants.

The head nurse, Matron Drummond, instructed the nurses to put their shoulders back and hold their heads high as they proudly walked into the waist deep water. No one spoke, no one wept as they stood in line facing the horizon. They were machine-gunned in the back and fell one by one. 21 nurses and one elderly civilian woman died heroically that day.

Vivian, who was badly injured, feigned death and eventually got back to the now empty beach. Some days later she would have to give herself up to survive.  She was 27 years of age. Apart from sharing with some nurses in the POW camp. Vivian told no one of the massacre. She hid her nurses’ uniform with the bullet holes and secretly documented the torture she endured in the ‘hell camp’ on Bible pages. All the while she continued caring for the sick and wounded.

Vivian was determined to survive and courageously endured three tragedy filled years of hardship and brutality. She had resolved that when the war was over, she would visit the families of the nurses who were massacred and tell of their bravery. Vivian weighed just 25 Kilograms when Victory in the Pacific finally gave her this opportunity.

Nelson Mandela once said, courage is “not the absence of fear but the triumph over it.” The majority of us will never face the adversities that Vivian did. Nevertheless, we can be heroes of our own story by being courageous and standing firm when we are tempted to quit.  God tells us in Isaiah 41:10 “Don’t be afraid for I am with you, don’t be distressed for I am your God. I will give you strength, I will give you help, I  support you with my victorious right hand.”  CJB

Vivian Bullwinkel AO,MBE,ARRC,ED,FNM (1915-2000) was Australia’s most decorated war nurse and continued to serve her country both in Military and civilian nursing for the rest of her life.

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Vivian Bullwinkel

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The Prophets Foretold! Blog 28 – 2019

“So,this article is saying that God used Caesar Augustus’ greed to get Joseph and Mary to the Town of Bethlehem and fulfill an Old testament prophesy.” I shared with Doug as I walked towards him in the Garage the other day.

As we talked Doug remarked that there were numbers of prophesies about Jesus in the old testament which was written hundreds of years before His birth. When I researched this fact I discovered that, sure enough there were over 300 prophesies which were fulfilled through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

I also discovered that mathematically speaking the odds of any one person satisfying this amount of prophesy are staggering. The chances of one Person fulfilling eight prophesies is 1 in a Trillion and the figures get even more gigantic for 48 prophesies. Let alone one person fulfilling all 300. It had to be Jesus!

Back to our conversation, we then started thinking of occasions when God ordained for certain people to be in the right place at the right time. Among a number of our suggestions we thought of Esther, she was a Jewish orphan, captured by the kings soldiers and basically taken into slavery. Fast forward a couple of years and we find that she had been positioned in the Kings Palace so God could use her to save the Jews from Genocide.

The article I was reading went on to say that we fret too much about political leaders. Whether it be President or Prime Minister, because God is ultimately in charge and he controls the Game  plan. Whether it is a Caesar or a slave they are positioned in history as stepping stones along the way. So we ordinary folks should just trust God and live our best life now.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

Starry Night

Yvette’s pastel  version of Starry Night

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‘Celebrating Birthdays’ Blog 27- 2019

“You could always blog about your Birthday or your age.” Doug suggested as I lamented my lack of ideas. I laughed! My Mum told us she was ninety-nine years of age when we were children. My teacher didn’t believe me and I was a little affronted because my mother would not tell me fibs, or so I thought.

Back in the ‘Day’ many women didn’t like to admit their age for some reason. I used to wonder what difference it made. Just because you don’t tell anyone your age doesn’t make you any younger. It was due to this realization that I decided to not only admit my age but to celebrate it.

From then on, every time I had a birthday, I told anyone who would listen and used any excuse to celebrate, both before and after the due date. It has become such a habit that my family laugh about the way my celebrations are dragged out. My birthday was on the eighteenth but I started celebrating on the ninth with a trip to the movies, coffee and cake and the obligatory ‘choc top’ ice cream.

Since then Doug and I have celebrated by having coffee’s with various friends and finally on my birthday we went on a picnic with my grandsons. Tomorrow we go and celebrate my birthday with friends for Lunch and on the  first of December we are meeting some of our Sydney family for Lunch again. I think by then I will have been all ‘celebrated out’.

American based Paul Morgan decided to break the Guinness Book of World records title for having the longest birthday. The software developer doubled the length of his big day to 48 hours by hopping on several planes around the world to different time zones. Now that is going to extremes.

God put us on this earth for a fixed period of time which is known only to Him. So, we ought to get on and celebrate the life he has given us because every time we wake up in the morning it’s a gift worth celebrating. Psalm 118.24 reads “This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

The bonus is that if we accept the Salvation Jesus offers, we are already celebrating eternal life and dying is just a case of changing address.

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Paul Morgan celebrating his 48 hour birthday

 

 

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Nothing is new under the sun! Blog 26-2019

“I am going to google that.” declared Yvette as we watched an episode of ‘The Crown’ regarding Princess Margaret and Group Captain Peter Townsend. Though the producers thought it to be genuinely correct we found that new information had been uncovered this year (2019) which experts say “Rewrites History.”

In a file named “1955 Royal Family” at the National Archives in Kew, a letter written by Princess Margaret, six days before her 25th birthday stated that she hadn’t made up her mind about marrying the Group Captain yet. The information in the letter sets the records straight. She could have married him and retained all her rights and privileges if she had wanted to.

Interestingly the media, who hounded her continuously and promoted the idea that Princess Margaret’s wedding had been stopped by her sister, politicians, and the church were mentioned in her letter. I quote! “No doubt ….especially on my birthday …..the press will encourage every sort of speculation about my marrying…”

Nothing is new! This morning we were reading Marks Gospel and it was all there. Jesus was stalked, loved, hated, some were trying to trap him into saying what they wanted to hear. Others only followed to get what they wanted out of him. Often, he was so hemmed in by people he and his disciples didn’t have time to eat. Even when he got into a boat he couldn’t escape.  Eventually, innocent, they arrested him and meted out Capital Punishment at the behest of the screaming crowds and the Sanhedrin. All this without even a proper trial. (Fortunately, God had a bigger plan)

Does it sound familiar? Why does the press have such an appetite for, hounding, speculating and shooting down tall poppies? Do we have to know? So much of our news is “Fake news” (pun intended!) Sometimes I find myself asking the TV “Do we care?” I wonder if our news was all on a need to know basis, whether the news programmes would be cut down to less than half their current size.

What does this mean for us on a personal level? Firstly, we have to be really careful about what we say. Even if it is true and we can document it, should we be passing it on? I read somewhere the other day that we should not belittle others because when we do, we are ‘being little’ ourselves. When we are tempted to talk about others it would be good if we reminded ourselves that we are “bigger than that.’ And, if all else fails, perhaps we should remember love covers a multitude of sins.

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What is an Aphorism? Blog 25-2019

“You know,” she said, “seize the day!” We were travelling in Yvette’s car on Sunday last and she was talking about going for a brisk walk in the afternoon, once we arrived home.  “Carpe diem,” she declared, “I wonder who first uttered those words?” Well, as I was sitting in the back seat with nothing better to do, I took out my trusty little iPhone 5 and had a look. The first thing that popped up on my screen was the fact that there had been twenty-three million questions about the subject on the internet. Of course, when I looked today again for the information, I couldn’t find the post about the 23,000,000. Don’t you hate that?

Back to Sunday, the second thing I saw was the answer to Yvette’s question. The post said that the aphorism ‘seize the day’ was first mentioned in the work of the Roman Poet Horace in 23 BC and that carpe diem can also be translated literally as ‘pluck the day’. We all chuckled, 23BC and there is evidence to prove it. In this throwaway society where it seems that we don’t value anything unless it was invented yesterday, here is yet another confirmation of something written over 2000 years ago. By the way books of Horace’s works are available also. Lol!

Naturally, one question begets another. “What, is an aphorism?” you might ask.  Well, it is a statement of truth, or opinion expressed in a concise and witty manner. To qualify as an aphorism, it is necessary for a statement to contain a truth revealed in a terse manner.

Obviously, 700 years before Horace the book of Proverbs in the Bible was written. It is full of aphorisms, adages and wise sayings. In fact, the more I think about carpe diem the more I think it is an adage because an adage is an aphorism that has gained credibility by virtue of its long use.

Jesus himself said that we must work the works of God while it is still day because the night comes when no man can work.(John 9:4)  Mark Twain, Mahatma Gandhi, Benjamin Franklin and many famous people down through the years have made statements about not putting off till tomorrow what you can do today.

As I heard Costa from Gardening Australia say to Julia Zamiro on Home Delivery the other day (in today’s parlance). “I don’t want to get down the track and think, woulda, coulda shoulda.”

Nor do I!

Horace

Horace

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Borrowing and Lending Blog 24-2019

‘Do you remember the name of the lecturer at Ballarat University who used to attend Garden City Church before she moved on? I questioned Doug over coffee at Gloria Jeans one morning recently. “I don’t remember” he answered, “but I know who you mean.  I think she ended up being a missionary in Russia or thereabouts.” Later I phoned my son in law David who was at the University during the same period and he reminded me that her name was Dr Joy……..

This all came about because we had been discussing what the Bible says about lending, borrowing and going guarantor for a loan. Back in the day Joy shared with us how she often helped out students when they were financially embarrassed. She had an attitude of generosity and would loan the money to them to be repaid when they could. However, Joy herself always treated the loan as a gift. This meant if the money was returned it was all well and good, but if it wasn’t, she did not give the matter another thought. The money would never be allowed to affect her relationship with her students in any way.

I always thought that her attitude was admirable, give with the knowledge that you may not get it back and it won’t bother you.

Back to our discussion about what the Bible says about borrowing and lending. The first words of advice that came to me were “neither a borrower or a lender be” but I quickly discovered that this is not a Bible reference but a quotation from Hamlet. (Wouldn’t you know?) Polonius gives this advice to his son Laertes and adds that if Laertes did so he may lose both his money and his friend.

There are so many ways that one can borrow these days and so many lines of credit available but in the end its all debt. It all has to be paid back, it all costs and I wonder if it’s worth it. Except for a mortgage and maybe a vehicle to get around in surely it would better to save and wait till you can proudly purchase something outright. You may think I am old fashioned but I recall the words of St Paul to the Christians in Rome 13:8 “Owe no man (or woman) anything except love.”

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