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Stolen Voices: Young People's War Diaries, from World War I to Iraq    edited by Zlata Filipovic & Melanie Challenger order for
Stolen Voices
by Zlata Filipovic
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Stolen Voices, Zlata Filipovic and Melanie Challenger bring us a selection of 'Young People's War Diaries, from World War I to Iraq', each with an introduction that sets the scene and and an afterword that tells us the ultimate fate of each individual. Photos of many are also included.

In her Introduction, Zlata Filipovic suggests that 'Developing an intimate relationship with individuals who have lived through conflict forces us to go beyond the dizzying body counts and images of faceless refugees ... and draw on our capacity for empathy and compassion to actually feel' our common humanity. She advocates for war diaries - which she calls 'fingerprints of flesh' - as a countermeasure against the systematic destruction and manipulation of information by tyrants, and also speaks for those who have suffered in 'forgotten conflicts, neglected by history books.'

We first meet Piete Kuhr, trying to make sense of the changes in her life in WW I Germany, as soldiers leave laden in garlands and return - if they do - horribly wounded. Next is Nina Kosterina, a casualty of WW II in Bolshevik Russia, and Austrian Jew Inge Pollak, miserably homesick in Cornwall after being sent with the Kindertransport. German Hans Stauder continued New Zealander William Wilson's diary (though he understood no English) after he found it in WW II Egypt. Sheila Allan was interned in Changi Prison, Singapore during the Pacific War, while Japanese American Stanley Hayami was interned in the U.S. and later fought in Italy.

Also during WW II, Yitskhok Rudashevski wrote his diary in a Lithuanian ghetto, while Clara Schwarz lived in an underground bunker for two years in Poland. New Yorker Ed Blanco fought in the Vietnam War. Zlata Filipovic talks of 'stupid politics' and her wartime experiences in 1992 Sarajevo. The experiences of Israeli Shiran Zelikovich and Palestinian Mary Masrieh Hazboun are contrasted through their diaries. And we learn about Hoda Thamir Jehad's life in Iraq, which she says at one point 'has become a wreck that we cannot ever escape from.'

Some of these young people survived to live productive lives, others did not, but all their fears and dreams - and puzzlement over what has happened to them, their friends and families - live on through their writings in Stolen Voices. These words deserve to be read.

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