“Engraved with lines of agony / My palm enshrines a pledge” – Amrita Pritam, “Pledge”
He wears a military cap, with the appearance of an Eastern European with a round flat top and a thin braided band at the crown. The jacket is thick wool to keep him warm in the long days of rain on the Western Front or the Eastern Front. A wide thick collar is pulled up to his neck against the cold. He looks as if dressed to go anywhere against any weather. He will go to the sea on a ship, he will go to snowy lands on a sledge, he will go to the dark forests on foot or perhaps, if lucky, on horseback. His expression as he looks into the camera is surprised acceptance of his fate – determined by others of a higher rank than he, perhaps politicians, perhaps generals, an expression with fear behind the eyes.
He has pledged to come home, to come home to his sweetheart in the village where her father is a baker. He has pledged to his mother that he will not die at the hands of those who will try to kill him. He has pledged to himself to act with honor even if he comes from a peasant family, even if his life is considered nothing to those who command him, to act with honor because, above all, his life is worth something to him and to those who care for him. He wants someday to have a son, perhaps more than one, if he is lucky.
Looking into his face you can see him lying in some battlefield, or lying on the deck of some ship, still clad in the warm boiled wool of his jacket that protects so securely against the cold, but which has no power to save him from the bullet of an assassin’s gun.
Or perhaps he lives, perhaps he comes home to marry and to care for his new family along with his mother. Perhaps he takes his family to America to a Polish or Slovakian neighborhood, and his sons grow up to be new leaders of the people.
At this moment, in this snapshot, he is still young, still determined, still afraid.
About this post: This is a re-imagining of the life of a soldier in WW I. There is so much to be seen just by looking at a face.