“This thing that was happening now had happened so often before and would happen so often again in the history of the world. The evil, like a volcano, broke through the crust of things, and the foul lava flooded the earth, while over the roads of the world the refugees fled from the known to the unknown horror, from darkness into darkness again, with always the unconquerable hope in their souls that in the night ahead there would be some star.”
(Gentian Hill published 1949)
These words taken from Elizabeth’s novel Gentian Hill, have been resonating through my head for the last couple of weeks. Written about the French revolution for people who had just gone through the second world war, they now sound a trumpet call for our times. Elizabeth’s compassion for the dispossessed haunted her all her life. With her strong attachment to home and community, the trauma of losing both seemed to her one of the greatest tragedies of life, and many of her works deal with this theme.
Elizabeth never shirked the harsh realities, and here I believe lies one of her greatest talents. She can take myths and legends which are relevant to the location of place she is writing about and transform them into symbols and guidelines to help us through the mundane world of work and striving.
At present our sympathies are with the people of the Ukraine. But there are many others in their terrible position, from Syria to Palestine, from India to Africa. Whomever is fleeing from war and persecution, all are refugees of our modern world and need our compassion and to be welcomed to a new life without fear or favour.