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From the Eastern Daily Press, Monday, July 12, 1998:

Page headed with picture of Marlene Dietrich from the EDP Library with the caption:
"WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN?"
- Marlene Dietrich's timeless message from an earlier war.

Children of war suffering again

GEORGE GREENGRASS,
Royal Avenue, Lowestoft.

The conflict over Kosovo has been the principal feature of news on our TV screens of late.... the whole unhappy story revealing the plight of refugees fleeing the savage brutality of the Serbs determined in their vendetta to drive out innocent families, showing no mercy to old or young.

But now the tide has turned after the rain of Nato bombs, and survivors return to the ravaged land they know as home.

Fifty-six years ago, Marshal Tito held sway in Yugoslavia, while "Chetniks" harassed the German invaders, and just across the Adriatic, the Eighth Army was "liberating" Italy from the "Tedeschi".

Our General as a man in a black beret - Monty - while the GI Joes of the Fifth Army took ores from General Mark Clark on the front beyond Naples.

At the time, we were travelling by train from Taranto to join infantry companies preparing to attack across the river Sangro, in late November 1943, in very bad weather conditions.

Darkness was falling as we reached the railway yards at the town of Foggia, stopping at what was left of the platform.

The place was devastated by bombing, locomotives piled up and town like toys, rows of coaches shattered and burned out, everywhere the smell of high explosives and fire.

As we gathered our kit together, we came upon a strange scene in the ruins of the station. There were Italians huddled round a fire of odds and ends of wreckage. It was a cold November evening. We saw looking closer, that there were children, little ragged victims of the war, among them a somewhat elderly Italian army officer. He jumped up as we approached, and seeming quite upset. "Bambini!", he said, "Freddo... non Mangiare, piccolo bambini!", he said, and we pointed out his uniform. "Viva Mussolini eh?", we said.

"Non! Viva l'Italia!.... Brave Englesi Soldati, grazie!", as we gave him cigarettes.

We now searched our haversacks for possible goodies. Boiled sweets, biscuits, bars of wartime chocolate (army issue), and brewed our special tea on which we lived, marched and hopefully survived, with hot water from the locomotive.

Then a party took place around the fire in the ruins of Foggia railway station, an unexpected treat for the "bambini", perhaps not so hungry, not so cold... for now. I remember the face of that sad Italian officer saying "Grazie, grazie, Englese, buorno, brave!".

For him the war was over, but the children?... What was in store for them?

Somehow, as we finally left, and I remember it well, I could not forget the faces... of the children.

And we see the faces of children bewildered by war once more, the children, the people, of Kosovo... as man's inhumanity to man goes on....

In the words of a song by a certain lovely lady, sadly no longer with us... "When... will they ever learn"

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