Every year, before the new year begins, I sit in my small studio and think about the last year, trying to describe it to myself before turning the page to the new year to come.
This year, the pandemic changed the world. People had to move away from each other. Many lost their jobs, stayed at home for a long time, and had to settle for less and start worrying about the future. Everything that was safe and known crashed all over the world like the Great War and the Winter of 1943.
The Winter of 1943 was harsh, the US had been fighting for two years at that point and rationing had been introduced to most groceries. Many men joined the army and were serving far away from their families, and huge oceans separated them and their loved ones. The radio stations played Bing Crosby’s new hit “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” But most listeners could only dream about home.
North of London, at Podington Airfield, Lieutenant F. Cupp, the pilot of a B-17 bomber, and his friends from the 325th Bomber Squadron decorated a fir tree inside the briefing room hut. They didn’t say it out loud, but they all hoped they would stay alive next year.
In a suburb of Seattle, Rosie entered her home after a 12-hour shift at Factory 2, the Boeing B-17 bomber production line. She wanted to celebrate, but she was too tired, and she settled for washing her face in the sink before going to sleep. Rosie couldn’t stop smiling, watching herself in the mirror; there was a letter in the mailbox for her today from the one she loved, who was fighting in Italy. She hoped that next year he would come home and propose to her.
South of Rome, outside a large villa that had been converted into a field hospital, an Australian nurse in a white uniform came out of the large building. She walked slowly on the gravel and watched the large Red Cross emblem spread on the ground. Although she did not smoke, she lit a cigarette for herself and looked at the starry sky, wishing to herself that the hospital would be emptied of wounded and that she would be able to return home.
Two thousand, two hundred miles north of Melbourne, a group of soldiers tied a Santa doll to a military jeep and strolled through the jungles of New Guinea. They all were singing, even though they knew they would have to storm into the jungle again in a few days, in search of hidden Japanese soldiers. For them, New York was so far away.
In Brooklyn, a small family finished dinner with a prayer for the father’s safety. For so long, no letter was received from him. They only knew he was on a battleship in the Atlantic or the Pacific. He was not allowed to tell them where.
Everyone was tired of the protracted war, and no one knew that change was on the way.
In the secret war rooms in London, Normandy’s invasion plans had already been made, but in the winter of 1943, they were still a secret that would only be revealed six months later.
In the Winter of 1943, everyone prayed for hope for the next year, and it came.
I wish for all of us that next year will be like the year after the Winter of 1943.
A year of hope for the future.
Happy New Year,