top of page

Video: This is how war starts - Janine di Giovanni (TED)

A TED Talk by Janine di Giovanni

Janine di Giovanni invites us to understand the horrors of war. As a reporter she has travelled to some of the worst places on earth. As an observer she recalls incredibly heartrending stories of ordinary people suddenly finding themselves trapped in conflict zones.

This is how Ms Giovanni began her speech to a captive TED audience in 2012:

“This is how war starts. One day you're living your ordinary life, you're planning to go to a party, you're taking your children to school, you're making a dentist appointment. The next thing, the telephones go out, the TVs go out, there's armed men on the street, there's roadblocks. Your life as you know it goes into suspended animation. It stops.”

Those of us that have only ever known peace may wonder how we would respond if war were ever to come to our home. It is barely possible for us to imagine such an occurrence. Ms Giovanni grabs our attention with descriptions of normality meeting sudden calamity. The eery interruption to routines and plans is something I know I had barely stopped to consider.

When ordinary life is suddenly interrupted which concerns immediately spring to reality?

Her Bosnian friend, a young mother, was walking to work one day in April 1992 when a tank ambled down the Sarajevo road demolishing everything before it. The scene seems surreal yet was tragically life changing

As mayhem ensued terrible decisions were forced upon her and others. Handing over her infant son to a stranger amid crowds of other mothers crying, “take my child, take my child” epitomises the fear and desperation of their predicament. In another life I imagine shielding him from things like knocks and bumps were normal priorities. To move, in the space of weeks, to being someone forced to hand that same child over to the unknown, beyond her care, gives us a vivid example of the heart rending, soul destroying nature of war. Mothers sacrificed their children on the anchor of hope and strangers willingly accepted responsibility for the safety of the town’s youngest generations. None of those involved knew how long they would live or if they would ever meet again yet they took a chance on potential happy endings.

My take-home encouragement from this video comes from Giovanni’s determination to be a voice for the voiceless and the heroism of ordinary people. As human beings we rise to the task at hand and are capable of extraordinary bravery.

bottom of page