Among all the statues up for toppling last week, people started posting photos online of statues they thought should not be toppled. Many of them were of animals (Greyfriars Bobby) , or citizen heroes (Danuta Danielsson) or sportspeople (Bobby Moore).
Two of them touched me particularly.
The first is relatively recent, and if I had known about it a few months ago I could have visited it when we were in Melbourne. Peter Norman was an Australian (but surprisingly not related to me) sportsman, who won the Olympic silver medal in the 200m in 1968. That may be achievement enough, but the statue commemorates not his speed, but that he stood in solidarity, wearing the Olympic Project for Human Rights Insignia, on the Podium with Tommie Smith and John Carlos.
This action cost him his sporting career.
There are two monuments to that occasion; the one at San Jose State University in California only portrays Smith and Carlos. This was Peter Norman’s idea. He wanted his place on the Podium left empty, to enable visitors to stand with the black athletes.
Peter Norman died in 2006; the statue was erected and unveiled in 2019.
The second statue is in the main station in Prague, and is of an unassuming British man called Nicholas Winton.
Before the beginning of WW2, the British Government had agreed to accept children up to the age of 17 from the continent as long as there were foster homes and families in the UK willing to take them in. Between March and August 1939, Winton organized and supervised the evacuation of 669 Jewish children from Czechoslovakia.
Here’s a short video, telling the story:
I am moved to tears every time I watch that clip. But they are good tears, just as there are good statues, commemorating good men and women. And animals.
The Cabin Fever part: