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Day 9 - 21 April 2015: The Last Post
The Australian and New Zealand soldiers walked blindly into another country's land and culture in that Northern Spring of 1915, full of the joy of life and looking forward to a great adventure. So too we, a group of Australian and Aotearoa/NZ women, looked forward to our journey as we set out to travel from Istanbul to the WILPF Centeneary Congress in Den Haag in the Northern Spring of 2015 as a way to honour the journeys that many women must make on their way to find peace.
Our Indigenous people have taught us the importance of respecting the land on which we walk. And just as our soldiers wrote home to their families of the marvellous and strange things that they saw and experienced in foreign lands, so too did we, the women, write home to try to explain our experiences of our journey.
Unfortunately, our soldiers were about to enter the gates of Hell when they landed on the Gelibolu Peninsula on April 25th. Their commanders thought that it would be a quick invasion that would take less than an day - and that they would be in Istanbul for dinner.
Istanbul, that marvellous city, the New Rome, the Queen City, that for nearly 2,000 years has given some much to civilisation, had a surprise in store for our unwary young men. War is not all glamour, ease, victory. As they lay dying of their wounds, the nurses reported that they called for their mothers, and pleaded for the women to do something to stop the madness.
One hundred years ago, women from across Europe and North America heard this call from the dying and wounded soldiers and from the wounded and grieving mothers and families and gathered at Den Haag to establish the first international women's peace organisation - WILPF. They called for women's organisations around the world to align with them and peace minded women from Australia and Aotearoa/NZ joined them.
One hundred years later, a group of WILPF Australia and Aotearoa/NZ women decided to take a deliberate journey to celebrate the 100 years of WILPF's work to stop war.
As we journeyed through the countries that were the winners and losers of the First World War and the Second World War, we found that all lands and all people did not benefit from war. We met many people in these lands and everywhere we went people welcomed us heartily to their countries and expressed a great wish for peace to us. We met some amazing men and women in our journey.
As we entered the last leg of our journey, the ticket auditor on the Dutch train to Den Haag sat and talked with us when we explained our journey to him. He shared his story with us - he was born in Holland but his parents were from Morocco. He told us of his hardships as a first generation migrant from a different culture and his hopes (and difficulties) to find a better job. He even showed us his most precious possession which he had with him, carefully wrapped in his backpack - a very ornately bound copy of the Koran. We appreciated his trust and his friendship to share this with us.
So our journey ended. The love and friendship that we found in our journey proved to us that all people want peace and that women must continue to work to stop war. This is the best way to honour all those men, women and children who have died or been injured in war.
journey's end - june, stella, karen, ruth R, Del, Leonnie, Janette, Ruth C, Del R, Trish