“HOPE — Against the Odds” ~~ by Christine Larsen

“HOPE — Against the Odds” ~~ by Christine Larsen

The odds WERE formidable.

A US Air Corps fighter pilot who found himself in a German prisoner of war camp after his plane was shot down. He survived that disaster but wasn’t too sure about his current ‘home’. Despite this, he refused to let the probabilities stop him from making the best he could of every moment he would have.

Boredom threatened his sanity until a light bulb moment illuminated a memory of a gift of an old ‘fiddle’, with the words, “It’s yours, Red. Maybe you can make music with it.” And thanks to that other life and long-lost place, he’d become a musician… a violinist with an intimate knowledge of violins and their magical workings. Getting one now was an impossibility but he had been carving many small things, so…?

His first move was a common tactic in these harsh conditions – barter, swap, or trade. For tobacco rations,  some sympathetic guards desperate for AmerikanischeZigaretten, traded a pen-knife. From his upbringing on a farm during the Great Depression, and his resourceful father he got determination, remembering, “You can make something out of nothing, Son. All you’ve got to do is find a way… and there always is one.”

When other POWs learned of his quest to carve a violin, they began slipping odd bed slats from their already barely underpinned and supported bunks. And he began whittling and carving. Some parts required a sharp piece of broken glass, others an old kitchen knife, ground on a rock to form into a chisel. All took time… a great deal of time. And patience. And stealth.

Glue presented another problem until he solved that one too, with others pitching in to help scrape old dried carpenters’ glue residue from a few chairs in their wretched barracks. Ground and heated and mixed with water, it worked. Soaking of other thinnest of timber pieces in water heated on their communal wood-stove enabled intricate manipulation and bending of the pieces.

It took three months to make the body, but time was one thing the prisoners had aplenty. Eternally grateful he chose not to be a smoker, care-packages provided him and several other non-smoking prisoners with many cigarettes to barter – for pumice for sanding and paraffin oil to bring out the golden glow of the beech wood, the now unrecognisable bunk slats. A sympathetic guard found him catgut for the strings and a real violin bow was like a gift from the Gods.

All was done… but would it play? To his joy, the pilot and his violin produced the pure poignant sounds of that wonderful instrument, as though this one had volumes to say. Although he was banished to the latrine for his earliest practices, he soon regained his old skills. And caused singing and dancing and some relief for aching hearts and bodies.

One Christmas Eve, the pilot played Silent Night, and voices were heard from other barracks, singing that beloved old carol in different languages. Amongst them, German was heard… from the guards.  So many of them were ordinary family men far from their homes and their loved ones, too.  Somewhere in the shadows, it was said, an elderly guard [maybe the donor of the bow?] stood and sang quietly. And cried softly.


Among the countless tributes, a particularly precious one was 50 years after WWII, when the pilot donated his violin to a special museum aboard the aircraft carrier Intrepid, honouring the men and their memorabilia. At the opening, the concertmaster of the NY Philharmonic orchestra played this precious instrument and commented it was ‘an amazing achievement’ with a ‘quite wonderful sound’, when he had actually expected ‘a jalopy of a violin’.

Not really. More like a gift from God was the thought the pilot had at that precious moment, later shared with his family.

Winning ‘against the odds’ does not always bear the shape we imagined, not always the wish we made. Bizarre how often the worst imaginable outcomes of illness and loss reveal unimagined ‘silver linings’, so often ending in unexpected strength and empathy, and a new or renewed determination to help and support others.


OMP Admin Note:  Christine Larsen is a writer, farmer, wife, mother, and grandmother from Australia. She has never been homeless or had significant cancer – yet – but has had exposure to both – creating a great sense of empathy and desire to help in any way she can. She is humbled by the opportunity to give one of her stories to the sincerely worthwhile causes of Cancer research and Homelessness.



To find out more about Christine and her work:

ceedee moodling  (Christine’s website)

Christine Larsen, Author

 – on Wattpad

–  on Facebook

– on Tablo

– on Amazon

Old McLarsen had some Farms (farming memoirs)

ceedee4kids (Christine’s children’s book site)

Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers have been recently published (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

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Voting and Women

Voting and Women

I planned on writing this week’s blog and wanted to highlight a new One Million Project book about a woman who made an impact for women in the UK fighting for the right to vote.  It seems only fitting to highlight the historic strides women have just achieved in the US one hundred years after Frances Connelly walked into a polling station in the UK and cast her vote in defiance of the existing laws. 

In the United States midterm elections this November, many records have been broken by women candidates.  The largest numbers on record for women candidates for governor, the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate were set during 2018.  Ninety women have been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives which includes some historic firsts.

Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib became the first Muslim women elected to Congress. In Tennessee, Marsha Blackburn became the state’s first female Senator. The first Native American women to be elected to Congress were Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids. And for the first time, South Dakota has a woman as governor, Kristi Noem. Kyrsten Sinema became not only the first female senator from Arizona but also the first open bi-sexual elected, and Ayanna Pressley became the first black Congresswoman from Massachusetts. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman to be elected to the Congress at the age of 29.

New Zealand was the first country to allow women to vote in 1893, but seventy-two years after the Women’s Suffrage began, the United States finally allowed women to vote in 1920, after the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.  This wasn’t always the case in the US. When the Thirteen Colonies fought for independence, the rights of women to vote in the Colonies began being revoked beginning in New York state in 1777. 


The struggle for women’s voting rights, or Women’s suffrage as it was known, had begun. In 1848 the first women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. Elizabeth Cady Stanton proposed Women’s suffrage, and it was agreed to after the group heard Frederick Douglass’ speak. 

Scottish author, Sheena Macleod and author Laura Linham have written a book about the first woman, Frances Connelly, to vote in an election in the UK before voting rights for women in that country were granted. 

The following description is from the Amazon site for “So, You Say I Can’t Vote!:  Frances Connelly: The working-class woman’s route to the vote”

Women were granted the legal right to vote in Parliamentary elections in the UK in 1918. This right, however, extended only to property-owning, renting or university educated women over the age of thirty.
Seven years before this, Frances Connelly, a working woman walked past suffragists protesting outside the polling station in Yeovil, England, to cast her vote in an election. Her vote, and others like it, helped to keep the question in people’s minds — If one woman can vote, why not all?
Frances Connelly’s name is now largely unknown or forgotten. Her story is told here within the context of other women who voted in England before 1918, the struggles and complexities of the times in which these people lived and the contributions made by working-class women to women’s suffrage.

Order “So, You Say I Can’t Vote!: Frances Connelly: The working-class woman’s route to the vote”