MEMORY OF HIROSHIMA
FR. RYSZARD KOPER
I went to South Korea, Japan and Taiwan from New York with a group of 60 people. During that journey we experienced the truth of a saying of St. Augustine: ‘The world is a book and those who do not travel, read only one page’. Most of us were people incurably ill – they went down with an illness about which a known Polish traveler, a reporter, publicist, poet and a photographer Ryszard Kapuściński wrote: ‘Indeed there is something like infection with travelling and this is a kind of an incurable illness’. Being infected with this illness we got succumbed to the words of an American writer Mark Twain: ‘In twenty years you will regret what you have not done more than what you have done. So, untie the lines, and leave a safe harbor. Catch successful winds into your sails. Travel. Dream. Discover’. Japan charms with the beauty of various kinds. It is often said that this is the Country of Blooming Cherry. Indeed – blooming cherries create a fabulous landscape, but even when they get withered, the nature impresses with its unique beauty and richness, with the snowy Fuji Mount at the helm.
This romantic beauty is also composed of temples, which are mostly Shinto or Buddhist. Whereas, what is striking in the streets, is the order and cleanness. Inhabitants are very kind, although one can feel a kind of a distanced behaviour; they are well-organized and very busy. What the sterilely clean streets lacked was the joyful and blissful atmosphere of European cafes or tourists’ hubbub and exotics of the Thailand street. But every country has its own customs and in every country one can find something beautiful, interesting and educational. And this is how one can create a long story about the Country of the Rising Sun, but I want to write about the anniversary of throwing the atomic bomb onto Hiroshima, as we were travelling on Japanese roads at that time.
Families of our guides were directly touched by this tragedy. This is not an issue about which casualties want to speak, even to their children. Mother of Maika, one of our guides, died a from cancer few years ago as a result of being radiated. Maika mentions that her mother had never told her about those tragic days. It might have been a traumatic experience for her or she might have thought that no words could describe that and it was better to keep silent about it. After her mum’s death, Maika found her diary while she was tidying up her things. In that diary there were notes of 6 August 1945 and other days. Maika’s mother was at school that day, whereas her parents and two brothers – one seven-year-old and another six-month-old – stayed at home which was situated near the epicenter of the atomic bomb explosion. Maika’s mother remembered very well that it was a beautiful sunny day. She was cleaning windows at school. Suddenly something strange happened: terrible silence, and then an unimaginable bang, noise, terrifying darkness and the sun which looked like the moon. However, she was to face up a real tragedy, when the fires of the inflamed city were vanishing, and she was going towards her house. There were a lot of ruins around. She was passing hundreds of burnt dead bodies. Those who were alive differed from the dead as they were desperately looking for water which was not anywhere. In this terrifying scenery she got home. And here she experienced the tragedy fully. Everyone of her family was killed, except for her six-month-old brother. Her older – seven-year-old brother was holding him in his arms and was protecting him with his body from deadly bomb blast, although he had been killed himself. But this heroic sacrifice seemed in vain – the six-month-old brother died after seven days because of radiation and wounds.
While listening to this story everybody on the bus was crying. When Maika finished her story and was wiping her tears discreetly, we started praying for victims of this tragedy and so that it would never happen again. Maika knew the intention of our prayer and with her concentration and tears, she was joining in with words said in the Polish language. Suffering, compassion and tears joined us together and opened us to one another much more. In Maika’s behavior we noticed a change. In this, somehow, learned official politeness and kindness, there was a note of warm-hearted and authentic friendliness, nearly family closeness. Maika said that the Japanese did not feel any hatred or grudge to those who had done it, and added: ‘We were not without any guilt for it, either’. If today we are mentioning those events, we are doing it only so that there would not ever be such a tragedy.