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Victory in Europe, following the surrender of Nazi Germany, in 1945 is marked as VE Day on May 8 every year. Last Friday was the 75th anniversary of World War II in Europe, which would usually have been celebrated by street parties and other 1940s-themed events throughout the UK.
Other allied countries have their own ways of celebrating. Even Germany celebrates, not losing the war but liberty from Nazi rule.
This year, though, COVID-19 has invoked ‘stay home’ lockdowns and put a stop to mass gatherings, parades, religious services, social events, and other events. In their place, in the UK at least, street parties took on a new look – with the occupants of each house keeping to areas front of their own homes (pictured above). They still managed to join together in singing but that was as close a they could get while still keeping the social distancing regulations. With such sensible precautions, I feel that even the most vulnerable person with MS or disability could still take part.
BBC television devoted several programmes to the day. These included memories of war veterans and civilians on the home front, not-so-massed bands spaced according to social distancing, and a replay of then prime minister Winston Churchill’s historic victory radio broadcast.
In the skies, there were flypasts from World War II aircraft: the Spitfire and Hurricane fighters, and the Lancaster bomber. Then the RAF’s display team, the Red Arrows, painted the sky red, white, and blue – the colours of the UK’s Union flag.
Never give up, never despair
In the evening, there was a programme of music from Buckingham Palace, with military band members and stars keeping to the social distancing rules. Songs of the 1940s were interspersed with people’s memories of the time.
The Queen, in a televised address to the nation, reminisced about the end of the war and the radio broadcast made by her father, then King George VI. Last Friday night, she chose to make her statement at the precise time her father did in 1945. Turning to today, the tireless efforts of NHS staff, care and key workers, and communities helping the vulnerable, meant, she said: “We are still a nation those brave soldiers, sailors and airmen would recognise and admire.”
She also spotlighted the message of VE Day that so fits with our fight today. “Never give up, never despair,” said the Queen.
After her address, people were invited to stand on their doorsteps and sing Dame Vera Lynn’s wartime favourite ‘We’ll Meet Again’.
Since the Queen’s April 5 address about coronavirus, in which she said: “We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again”, the song has once again become a symbol of hope.
Although original plans had been decimated by the coronavirus and social distancing, VE Day was still marked successfully. And the nation remembered the brave. We remembered those who fell, those who fought and returned, and those left at home.
Isolated from family, until safe to go home
I was born in November 1952, seven years six months after the end of the war in Europe, so only learned of those years second hand. When an adult Scout leader, I recall writing on the wreath card for Remembrance Day (November 11) “Too young to remember, old enough to be grateful”. It was meant for the Scouts and Cubs but, thinking about it, it included me too.
Now in 2020, much is being made of the excellent and dedicated work of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare staff as they battle the coronavirus. They are the new ‘front line’ in the latest fight.
Another was a nurse working with COVID-19 patients. She is currently living in a hotel, isolated from her family, to keep them all free from risk of infection. She said she desperately missed her husband and children but would go home only when she knew it was safe for her to do so.
The bravery of these two, plus all the others in the front line fighting against this disease should not be brushed aside but be given full recognition. Yes, they are doing their jobs, but they are going ‘above and beyond’ in their efforts.
It seems the wartime spirit is alive and well despite, perhaps even because of, coronavirus.
‘Never give up, never despair’ are words we MS warriors need to live by every day, with or without a pandemic. Coping with multiple sclerosis or another disability is trouble enough!
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Please note that being born in the UK, all my posts, are written using British English spelling.
Centre not center (except in names, Centers of Disease Control) Colour not color Diarrhoea not diarrhea Haematology not hematology Haematopoietic not hematopoietic
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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. More recently, he was a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.
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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Ian is not a doctor, so cannot and does not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely his own unless otherwise stated.