Armistice - Maurice Langaskens
A few days ago was armistice. I asked my children if they knew what happened on that day, on November 11th 1918. They didn’t, so we talked about it. I told them that my father’s uncle, Henry Xavier Derroitte, a subdeacon monk at the Maredsous Abbey died on the front, at the Battle of the Yser, as he was trying to get to a wounded soldier, on May 3rd 1916. He was a noncombatant, trying to save a life, and paid with his. That’s part of my history, and theirs.
Maurice Langaskens (1884-1946) was “lucky” enough to spend a large part of the war in a German camp, as a captured enemy combatant. He made quite a few portraits of the men who were detained with him. These are intimate and quiet portraits; testaments to the attempts of each and every man, woman and child, living through war, to find peace somewhere, somehow, as the battle rages around them.
Much violence still plagues the world today. But it’s better than it used to be. The wholesale killing of millions seems to happen with less frequency, despite the fact that there are more of us. So, lest we forget what war does, it is critical that we remember the devastation of the World Wars and the many wars that came after. Do yourself the favor of doing an image search online for the word “devastation” in association with Aleppo, Dresden, Yser... You’ll see.
So, whatever our beliefs, respect of those around us is the antidote to the madness that is war. And wherever it is you find peace and quiet, is a place you should visit often. One of my refuges is often art. Here is one work by my Belgian soul mate Maurice Langaskens. A man, dressed as a soldier, looks one last time at his village, leavening it, as the title suggests, never to return.