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Sita Brahmachari's letter to the unknown soldier

Letter To An Unknown Solider - An Invitation For everyone to write history

Sita Brahmachari was asked to write a letter to the Unknown Soldier, and chose to do so from the perspective of Zak, a character from her new book Red Leaves. Read on below to find out what Sita thought about the project, as well as a video and transcript of the letter she wrote!

 

Photos taken at a Writing Workshop at Fortismere school where students brought in objects and photos of their own family memories of involvement in WW1.  Their letters have been recorded and can be heard on Paddington Station in London for the duration of this memorial in words.

Photography by Matthew Andrews

Letter To An Unknown Soldier is the most wonderful, egalitarian way of gathering stories. I was honoured to be invited to write a letter as one of fifty commissioned British writers including Malorie Blackman, David Almond and Stephen Fry to name but a few. These voices were invited to get the ball rolling and  now every single person in the country is invited to write and publish their letters recording family stories from WW1 from every perspective including women, children, parents, grandparents, soldiers, defectors, consciencious objectors...the stories that fall between the cracks of the official telling of history. When all the letters are collated together they will form a national archive which will surely become a national treasure for the British Museum where it will be permanently housed.

Themes of the importance of finding yourself  and your family's path through history resonate strongly with me and feature in all my novels but especially in my forthcoming novel 'Red Leaves' (to be published in September 2014 by Macmillan Children's Books)  so... I wrote my letter through the eyes of my character Zak Johnson... who will you write your letter from and to?

Have a look around the site - find out how to publish your own letter and read all the other moving letters...

But be warned...you may need a box of tissues by your side... these letters tug straight at the heart strings.

Here's my letter from Zak on the site and a video of me reading Zak's letter.
 

 

Dear soldier,

Every time I set foot on this station I look for you holding on to that letter of yours.

So many times I’ve stood here trying to read the expression on your face, feel the emotions surge through your armoured heart as you scan the words of…what are they…love, longing, news from home?

Sometimes I imagine that you raise your head and force your heavy eye lids open. Maybe that’s what you do when we’re not looking, watch us passing by…a century of travellers from platform number one. Arrivals and departures assembling together: black shiny shoes, converse, DM’s, walking boots, the sharp echo of heels through history.

I wish you could step off your plinth and glimpse into my world like I once did into yours. I close my eyes and imagine…The station rumbles and the earth quakes as your giant boots crash in on our time.

A boy collides with you as he lugs his rucksack but he doesn’t feel the brush of your scratchy coat against his skin, the heavy burden you carry on your shoulders, you’re invisible to him just as you were once to me.

I struggle to keep pace as you march through the station all these people criss-crossing straight through you. ‘Sorry son, old habit,’ you laugh as you slow down for me. I watch you strain to take in the: hands raised to mobiles, mouths talking into thin air- or so it must seem, fingers scrolling over iPads … ‘I don’t recognise this world,’ you mutter.

Then you stop and stare at the huge over-head screen where the news reels on and on displaying images of children marching into refugee camps, next a bomb falling on a building, ashen-faced men and women cradling babies emerging from the rubble, bleeding. ‘What is that?’ you ask, pointing to the screen. ‘The News,’ I answer. You raise your heavy head and look up, up beyond the steel framed ribs to the glass ceiling. ‘Old, old news,’ you sigh and wander back to your plinth, head bowed.

Outside the rain pours down, making a drum of the station roof. I open my eyes as a constant drip splashes onto me and you.

A pigeon settles on your chest. Wings flutter under your great coat, the fine paper of your letter shivers and tears begin to roll down your copper cheeks.

You are not ‘The Unknown Soldier’ to me,

Zak Johnson

 

Click here to read this letter on the To An Unknown Soldier website.