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Letter: An encomium to past and present warriors

Sudbury man pens letter to honour the sacrifice of soldiers
typewriter pexels-caryn-938165 (From Pexels by Caryn)
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Editor’s note: The word ‘encomium’ used in the title might be unfamiliar, but as it was used by the writer, we felt it might be necessary to include a definition. An ‘encomium’ is simply a piece of writing that highly praises something or someone.

The birthday of contemporary Canada on July 1, 2022, is a good day to express my profound gratitude to all of you veterans, deceased and alive, for the quality of life you made possible for all of us Canadians. Let me explain.

Virtuous warriors like you are my ancestors with a tragic history. The tragic family history is narrated in the following page to underline the plight of 14 million Ukrainians who have been displaced on account of the Russian invasion. 

Thanks to the generosity of North Americans and West Europeans, Ukrainian refugees will endure. I cannot help but relive through our family history the torment of you, your families, Ukrainian soldiers, their families, and others who have been made refugees in their own land and other foreign realms. 

To admit that I deeply sense your pain is to say nothing at all, but I beg of you to understand the depth of my sentiment for your sacrifice.

All this brings us the fortunate ones to you, individually and collectively. The great philosopher Aristotle said, “We make war that we may live in peace”. We are the beneficiaries of your devotion to duty and sacrifice. We have inherited the legacy left behind by you all – living and deceased. 

For that, we salute you.

Our words, however heartfelt, may appear to you as sentiments devoid of substance in comparison to what you did. With humility we plead with you to accept our unalloyed admiration for you. Time does not erase your greatness but bestows veneration upon your stature.

We shall remember and enshrine your achievement in our undying memory and pass on your legacy to succeeding generations. 

We pledge to lead our lives in a manner that is worthy of your full measure of devotion to the noble cause of a liberal democratic society.

I come from a 700-year-old defeated and destitute family in India. On Jan. 25, 1565, a Thursday, at 6 a. m., the family had authority, influence, wealth, and high social status. At 4 p.m. they lost everything. Thirty-three adult able-bodied members of the kinship platoon were slain in the historic Battle of Talikota-Karadi, in Bagalkot District, Karnataka State. The victorious soldiers did what some power intoxicated soldiers do to women in their reproductive years and my ancestors suffered the same fate.

Women, children, and four very old men, numbering 112 comprising mostly women, walked 337 km from the frontier garrison town Gudur in Karnataka to the city Penukonda in Andhra Pradesh. The destitute found that their own relatives who had escaped from Vijaynagar/Hampi, the Capital City of the largest South Indian Empire in history, disowned them because the internally displaced persons were not thought to be fit relatives who had experienced atrocities. For 20 years from 1565 to 1585, the entire family group lived as destitute refugees surviving by doing menial work. In 1585 the diminished King of the Erstwhile Empire made land grants to the 16 families in a hamlet of four huts, now the village of Kandavara, 85 km south of Penukonda.

The destitute 112 now became dignified poor as farmers with 1.5 acres of farm land and a residential plot of approximately 64 ft. x 44 ft. The first person in the family to break out of poverty was my father after 364 years in 1929. Three of his four children migrated out of India and are now comfortably settled in Melbourne, San Francisco, and Sudbury, while the fourth did not want to move to Melbourne.

My late father-in-law, William Dolan served during the Second World War (1939 – 1945) in several theatres in Europe. He returned home in good health.

Narasim Katary Saluva