"I Gardened for My Life" - The Defiant Gardens of POW's on Veterans Day | PITH + VIGOR by Rochelle Greayer

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“I Gardened for My Life” – The Defiant Gardens of POW’s on Veterans Day



I have re-typed (in case you can’t read it) the opening paragraph of this article originally printed in Better Homes and Gardens in October 1944:

Thousands of Americans have seen the Prisoner of War Exhibit now on national tour. Here is the story of how one American soldier, Capt. John L Creech of Woonsocket, RI kept himself occupied and his comrades alive by operating a greenhouse at a German prison camp at Sczubin, Poland, after being captured in North Africa. Capt. Creech was awarded a Bronze star for his contribution to the health and nutrition of his fellow prisoners.

I found this article on author Kenneth Helphand’s website Defiant Gardens, which I learned about on a visit to the Theraputic Landscapes Network. I am not sure how I lost sight of the fact that today is Veterans Day, (srsy, the kids are home from school, and why???) but this brought me right back and reminded me that tonight at dinner we will have a toast (or a moment of silence) for all Veterans — and most specially to us, my father in law, who we will be with on thanksgiving day for his 89th birthday, and who, as a tail gunner, crash landed on a French Beach on D-day and survived to tell the story.  In his retirement he has traveled extensively and is deservedly on a 6 week cruise that started in South Africa and ends next week in Thailand (or somewhere near there – the port of call list was mind boggling and I can’t keep it straight). We can’t wait for our visit to California to hear about their most recent adventure and to celebrate what continues to be a long and cherished life.

Happy Veteran’s Day!

On another note: I am fascinated by the subject of Kenneth Helphand’s book Defiant Gardens.

He describes his subject:

Defiant gardens are gardens created in extreme or difficult environmental, social, political, economic, or cultural conditions. These gardens represent adaptation to challenging circumstances, but they can also be viewed from other dimensions as sites of assertion and affirmation.
There are many kinds of defiant gardens, but my focus is on a selection of those related to war in the first half of the twentieth century:

  • gardens of World War I, built behind the lines of the Western front
  • gardens built in the Warsaw and other ghettos under the Nazis during World War II
  • gardens created in Europe and Asia by prisoners of war and civilian internees in both world wars
  • gardens constructed by Japanese American internees in U.S. internment camps during World War II

You can buy Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime here.

defiant gardens cover art


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  1. Erin says:

    I was lucky to go to a lecture by Kenneth Helphand a few years ago — his presentation was really really interesting. And Defiant Gardens is an amazing book. So many great stories and examples of perseverance in unbelievably difficult situations. I definitely recommend it, too!

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