“I carried my white cat to the cellar”

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“…One furious night
that came rushing down, blacking everything out,
Mother carried me down to the cellar
Then she vanished, she had no eyes
It got cold and wet and dark
You felt it in your lungs
There was an iron door
you were not to open”

It is the bombing of Helsinki February 1944. Seven years old boy is in the midst of chaos with his mother. Author and psychiatrist Claes Andersson has written a stirring poem on the basis of his own childhood memory. Andersson has also written a book The Creative Mind, in which he explains widely the usage of subconscious and memory in the literature. Memories he has chosen to illustrate the poem are wisely selected, powerful and descriptive.

“I carried my white cat to the cellar We sat there
so long it went blind, ran away
Someone found it with its head blown off in a box
marked Newspapers”

The generation that experienced the war lost a lot of hopes and ideals. Not everyone wants to look back on their memories of war, as there is in so much pain. When my grandparents were still alive, in my childish self-centered world it was enough for me that they exist. Their own life remained a mystery to me. Women’s and children’s experiences of the war period have long time been less present than men. My grandmother was a young mother taking care of the farm while my grandfather was at war. They had two babies and two toddlers of their own. In addition, she took care of three nephews, who were orphans. How she managed? It’s too late to ask, I can only guess.

“I did not cry, I was all dried out
I seemed to take off, rise out of myself, saw
myself lying there below without head
I held my breath until my cat was whole again
It never worked”

2 thoughts on ““I carried my white cat to the cellar”

  1. Interesting post. Made me think of my own grandparents who were young newly weds during the Continuation War. My grandfather had to go to the war, but luckily survived without any lost limbs or such. Although he did see nightmares about it for years and years. Even though it must have been very traumatic, he was always willing to tell stories about the war.

    • Thank you Anne for commeting! I raised this matter partly because I think if we don’t discuss about war experiences with those who lived during the war, may happen that those experiences are forgotten and become just tales.

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