Monday, October 30, 2017

Zookeeping: women and war

The true story of WWII resistance, courage and compassion as first documented in the unpublished diaries of Antonina Zabinski, the wife of the Warsaw zookeeper during that brutalising war, then much later retold in the 2007 book The Zookeeper's Wife by poet Diane Ackerman, and finally brought to a wider audience this year in the film of that title by New Zealand director Niki Caro is a new kind of war story, one told from a female perspective.

It is a beautiful story focused on life, instead of death, and without Antonina, then Diane, then Niki, the wider world would not know of it, not know of the courage and compassion of this Polish woman and her husband who risked their lives to save as many as 300 Jews from the Warsaw ghetto amidst the most brutalising, terrifying and compassionless horror imaginable.

As most stories of women's compassion and courage and cleverness have been all but lost to history, with men's stories predominating in what is told and retold, especially of war, this change of perspective that uncovers and tells of this long obscured history is vital. That women are coming together to tell our stories, old and new, more than ever before, is one of the most progressive aspects of modern life, and one that I believe is, or could be if we don't resist it, as some are, a game-changer that moves us towards a world without the brutality of war.

Never mind lest we forget. This is a case of lest we fail to realise that women risk their lives, women resist and women care, often in ways and at times where and when men fail to. The will to war and brutality is not an essential part of the human condition and women's voice shows us this in a way that we have not been shown before.

Lest we fail - to see and to hear from women.


  1. Yes, more films like this one.
    The top pic is great.

  2. I agree - on both counts. The elephant appears to be smiling :)