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Forever England

by Stuart Millson

A sea of cheering people, thousands of St. George’s flags waved with gusto - and not a politician in sight! This was, of course, the scene on the 22nd November 2003, the day of England’s spectacular victory against her Australian cousins in the Rugby World Cup. Yet curiously enough a similar spectacle was unfolding on that very day, in an unregarded country, thousands of miles from any rugby match. Whilst England and Australia battled it out so magnificently on the sports field, the former Soviet satellite state of Georgia was in the middle of a peaceful, bloodless, democratic revolution - with the people marching, cheering and dancing under the flag of St. George!

For many, it was something of a surprise to see “our flag” (with some variation) waved by a people who live somewhere not far from the Black Sea! But Georgia, once firmly under the iron jackboot of Communist control, had suddenly come to life, deposing its leader - a one-time leading light of the Moscow politburo! - and reasserting its ancestral identity into the bargain.

Our St. George’s Day, as we all know (apart from the BBC!) is on the 23rd April. Yet the Georgians commemorate the great Christian martyr in late November, and now he will be forever associated with the slaying of a dragon far, far away, in a land where Stalin’s state machine once breathed its fire. The “St. George’s Day” revolution certainly followed a trend, as it reminded me very much of those weeks, over a decade ago, when the Baltic states also declared their freedom and independence from Communism.

The last Soviet President, Mr. Gorbachev, sent tanks to scare those tiny countries, but the people of Lithuania formed a human chain around their legislature. In Latvia and Estonia, they lit candles and sang long-lost national songs whilst Moscow Radio snarled its propaganda. The secret police, Red Army and all the rest of the apparatus of the Soviet Union could no longer keep the people down, and freedom swept across countries which many in the West had forgotten ever existed.

Despite consigning Stalinism to the dustbin of history, many of the problems endured by the people for so long - such as low standards of living - continue to be felt today. No doubt this explains why the Poles, Czechs and Baltic nations swallowed all the blandishments from Brussels; decided that “Europe” meant jobs and wealth; and duly marched to the tune of the Eurocrats. One can hardly blame them for wanting to break free of near-poverty, but over time those countries may well feel what many of us have discovered here in England; that despite the illusions, the propaganda of prosperity, the Euro-superstate is a menace to freedom and liberty - not to mention our pensions and living standards!

Unless we wake up - and soon - it is not inconceivable that in the Europe of 2084, there might even be a “European rugby team”, its supporters cheering on the players with blue and yellow-starred flags! The EU’s Sports Commissioner might even appear in the grandstand, no doubt adding a politburo-style speech at the end of the match for good measure. And I wonder how many people in the European superstate of tomorrow will think back to the archive film from 2003, of the rugby match which was won by a country called “England”, whose flag was a St. George’s cross…

(November 2003)

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