I took a Viking River Cruise with my wife a few years back. It was our first such adventure on water. I saw many things of historical significance as we travelled from Amsterdam to Budapest and experienced the Second World War up closer than in my history books.
One of my strongest memories was during one of our free time explores. We were walking along the promenade by the Danube in the Pest part of Budapest. We came across a plaque titled “Shoes on the Danube Bank.” There, in bronze, was the description: To the memory of the victims, shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross Militiamen in 1944-45. Erected 16th April 2005.
I glanced up to see one of the most curious outdoor museum installations.
There was a very long row of shoes, all sorts, that was but a token representation of those who were brought to the water’s edge, shot, and left to silently float away.
Ladies’ high-heeled shoes, baby shoes, work boots, new shoes, old shoes, some with fresh flowers, others unadorned. I remember swallowing hard as I took in the scene.
The exhibit is a reminder, powerful in meaning. No history book could have spoken more clearly or louder.
Another example that is closer to home involves a large life-size bronze statue in Edmonton. It portrays a wall with a window frame at the top. A ladder leans against the wall. The firefighter has climbed the ladder and is reaching for a young girl to save her – “The Rescue.”
Such a simple piece of art that I can quickly grasp the intent and meaning in one glance. But my thought processes take me much further. They take me to the firefighters who have risked their lives to save people and property, to their failed attempts and the lifelong anguish they live with.
Bravery is only one of their attributes I think about whenever I pull off to the side of the road to let them get past on their way to possibly save another life.
Please give this a bit of a think. What recollection do you have of a small memorial or exhibit that has stuck with you over the years? Why?
I’m curious about your thoughts. Please share your bit of a think in the comment section below. It will come to me for approval before posting.
Photo by Glenn Walmsley
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