Last Thursday, 25 April, Australia commemorated all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars and military conflicts. Every year during this day veterans and their families, current soldiers and a lot of civil citizens participate in annual events called Dawn Services – special ceremonies to honor fallen diggers. This ceremony is followed by veteran’s marches and patriotic speeches. Schools organize excursions to war memorials for students, where children bring their handmade wreaths. Hundreds of Australians even go for a cruise to Turkish Gallipoli Peninsula in order to honor the memory of those who landed at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915. No exaggeration, the history of nation is well remembered and protected.
Some people tell that Australia is so young as a country and there is not much of a history, that’s why Australians are so mindful about it. I think that it doesn’t matter how old is the country, it is a personal preference of each citizen to respect their own history.
Anzac Day is a public holiday, and we’ve decided to take a hike on Kokoda Track Memorial Walk – the trail located in Dandenong Ranges, 40km east of Melbourne, mountain terrain surrounded by fern tress and giant eucalyptuses. It was quite hard to find a free spot to leave a car, because the parking was 110% full.
Crowds were heading towards the top of the hill to commemorate the battle between Australian and Japan military forces on the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea in 1942.
The hill is so steep, so it would be a real challenge for those who are not fit. I always thought about myself as of physically enduring female. I love fitness, gym, yoga and regular walks. 2.5 km up to the top seemed quite easy for me. However, after the first 300 meters I felt that it would not be so simple as I thought. We’ve reduced the pace, and later made a short stopover to get a breath and hydrate.
The walk, or better call it a “climb” was very intense. I’ve watched as seniors slowly but confidently went up, parents led their children by hands, very small ones enjoyed the ride on father’s shoulders in special harnesses, teenagers with iPods ran by… And despite of the complexity of the track, no one has decided to return without reaching the top first.
I admire Australians for that, they remember their fallen soldiers, they mourn and honor them, and all these feelings are expressed by such an unusual way. But I think that is a proper way, they show that life is moving on and we should live it actively.
I know, it won’t be accurate to compare Ukraine and Australia, but I do it unwittingly all the time. And somehow I recalled the picture of traditional Ukrainian holidays in May. When people use the good weather and several days off to buy beer, marinate meat and have the feast in parks, squares and on river banks. It’s not bad. But the majority of these drunk companies will leave the rubbish in parks, will not choke the fires in forests, and till the night some of them will even forget what they have celebrated. Heaps of empty bottles, rubbish and hangover – everything that will remain after the holidays. Fortunately, there are people who can behave themselves while having rest, but I’ve also seen a lot of opposite examples.
There was a great surprise on the top of the hill – several very accurate private houses right beside the nature reserve. The cottages looked very cozy even from outside and they looked very organic with all this vegetation around them.
In the front yard of one of the houses we saw a water tap and a plate which said: “Free water, enjoy!” The owners were so kind to even put a cup near the tap. So small but very nice detail.
Right near we’ve met an affable man who was picking up the dry branches and fallen leaves. His name was Ken and he was the owner of the house with free water tap. During the holiday he went out to take care of the nature reserve territory that surrounds his house. For free, just because he loves the place where he lives.
We fell into talk and Ken kindly showed us his beautiful garden and summer terrace. He told us that he and his wife were expecting their grandchildren for dinner, that a kangaroo and possums usually come to search for food during the nights, that he lived in Great Britain for some years and it doesn’t take much time and efforts to look after the garden and territory of the reserve, as all neighbours take care about it together.
I adore the absolute openness and simplicity in local people. It significantly changes the perception of the world. I also love the local nature, it seems to be the deep autumn, but everything around has so vivid colors – some trees are yellow and their leaves are falling down, but a lot of tress are green and some flowers are even in bloom – fantastic flora!
The first year of our life in Australia was a little bit weird in a sense of holidays’ celebration. We’d already given up celebration of the most of Ukrainian ones. But we still had not celebrated Australian holidays, because we’d been passing through the complex adaptation period. A year later we’ve learned some of the local history, traditions and habits. We understand what is going on around and really enjoy participating in these various events.