This WWII Samurai sword will be handed over to Japanese Buddhist priest Reverend Shigenobu Watanabe during an Anzac Day service in Lismore as an act of reconciliation by the Remembering and Healing Old Wounds group Sabina Baltruweit (left), Larisa Barnes and Margaret Loong.
This WWII Samurai sword will be handed over to Japanese Buddhist priest Reverend Shigenobu Watanabe during an Anzac Day service in Lismore as an act of reconciliation by the Remembering and Healing Old Wounds group Sabina Baltruweit (left), Larisa Barnes and Margaret Loong. DAVID NIELSEN

Sword to heal old wounds

A WORLD War II Japanese samurai sword has been handed to a Lismore reconciliation group to return to Japan in the spirit of healing and forgiveness.

The sword was found by a Sydney war widow who hoped the gesture might promote peace.

“Often these veterans never spoke of the war, even to their wives,” said Sabina Baltruweit, from the group Remembering and Healing Old Wounds.

“I think this was her way of making peace with it.”

The group was formed last year by Ms Baltruweit and two other Northern Rivers women, Larisa Barnes and Margaret Loong – whose families have all been deeply touched by war – to heal the wounds of war and promote non-violent solutions to conflict.

Under the mentorship of former Lismore priest Fr Paul Glynn, OAM, who is continuing the legacy of his brother, the late Father Tony Glynn, OAM, the women hope to carry on the reconciliation work of the two brothers.

The Glynn brothers were both former Woodlawn students and Lismore priests who dedicated their lives to reconciliation between post-war Japan and Australia.

The group will present the sword to Japanese Buddhist priest, Reverend Shigenobu Watanabe, at a multi-faith ceremony at Lismore Uniting Church on the eve of Anzac Day in April.

Rev Watanabe will research the origins of the sword and organise its repatriation to Japan.

Ms Baltruweit, Ms Barnes and Ms Loong have each experienced the traumatic generational legacy of World War II from German, Jewish and Australian perspectives respectively.

Last year they returned another war souvenir, a fragile, tattered Japanese flag, in a similar ceremony.

Ms Baltruweit explained that such gestures were very meaningful to the subsequent Japanese generations, and carried huge significance in Japan.

“We wanted to do something tangible and inclusive around Anzac Day,” she said.

“It is important we don’t forget – but it is also important to make a commitment to peace.”

Ms Baltruweit explained if we remember the sacrifice we must also remember the suffering war brings to soldiers and civilians on all sides.

“If we stay stuck in just remembering, resentment can return to second generations,” she said, speaking from experience.

Fr Glynn has guided and supported the women who all have a personal stake in the issue.

“Fr Glynn is so glad his work will now continue after he has gone,” she said.

Ms Baltruweit grew up in post-war Germany and saw incredible acts of healing and reconciliation through the 1960, 70s and 80s.

“In Europe we didn’t have the luxury of hanging on,” she said.

“We were all too close together.”

She spoke of her parents who were indoctrinated with notions like ‘the arch-enemy France’.

“They now have a French god-daughter,” she said.

Ms Loong still grieves for her uncle who suicided soon after returning from the war, and Ms Barnes’ parents were holocaust survivors.

“I know lots of Jews who now work in humanitarian fields,” said Ms Barnes, explaining that was how they continued to deal with the memories handed down.

“Four members of my immediate family are teachers who work with refugees.”

Together the three women have forged a friendship based on real and lasting reconciliation.

Following the service, the group will hold a short ceremony in Lismore Peace Park where they will unveil a plaque. A tree was planted for peace at the site last year by local children from different cultural backgrounds.



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