It’s Mine Awareness Day; and 10 poor victims will be caught unawares

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In Land of Mine, the second world war has just ended but young German prisoners are kept on to clear Denmark’s beaches of 1.4 million landmines. The fatalities were horrendous.

Today, April 4, is International Mine Awareness Day, as designated by the United Nations. I mention this for two reasons. First, there is a fantastic new film on the topic, Land of Mine (a finalist in the Oscars this year), and I was telling my friends in Romance-language speaking countries about it – the related vocabulary is further down this post. Second, the film brought back memories of my own experience in this regard – in my youth in Africa I was once on the back of a truck that detonated a landmine. Fortunately it was a reinforced vehicle and the injuries were minimal. It’s far worse if you tread on one.

Landmines may seem like a thing of the past but here are some facts that will shock you.

  • In 64 countries around the world, there are an estimated 110 million undetonated
    landmines still lodged in the ground.
  • Since 1975, landmines have killed or maimed more than one million people.
  • On average, 10 people die every day due to landmine blasts.
  • Even with training, mine disposal experts expect that for every 5000 mines cleared,
    one worker will be killed and two workers will be injured by accidental explosions.

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These details came from the press kit for Land Of Mine, which has just opened in Australia. The Danish mine-clearing campaign was shocking for a number of reasons.

  • It was a violation of the 1929 Convention relating to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.
  • An estimated 2600 POWS were forced to do it. Some were as young as 13.
  • Half of them were killed or injured.

So much for the grim statistics. The film is marvellous and uplifting for the way it shows how, even in the tensest of times, it is possible to break down enmities, to see a friend instead of a a foe – something that I wish political fanatics and bigots all over the world could do today. Do see the movie if you can.

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VOCABULARY

How do you say “landmine” and “to explode” in my five Romance languages?

  • In French, mine terrestre; exploser
  • In Italian, mina terrestreesplodere
  • In Portuguese, mina terrestre; explodir
  • In Romanian, mină terestră or mină de uscat. (When I asked a Romanian friend he said “something like teren minat” but that’s his story.) a exploda, a detona
  • In Spanish, mina de tierra, hacer volar/estaliar/explotar

Photographs supplied courtesy of Palace Films.