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Blog > April Writing Prompt: a person from your country's history

The writing prompts invite postcrossers to write about a different topic on their postcard’s messages every month. These are just suggestions though — if you already know what you want to write about, or the recipient gives you some pointers, that’s great too!

This month, let’s talk history.

In April, talk about a famous person from your country’s history.
Written postcard

I agonized over this prompt for a long time, no historical figure seeming quite right… and then a couple days ago over dinner, our friend Tiago (aka ogait) asked: “How about Aristides?” and suddenly I felt really stupid. But of course!

Aristides de Sousa Mendes was a Portuguese consul in southern France when World War II broke out. Portugal was a neutral country and thus an appealing destination for the many people displaced by the war… but these were the dictatorship years. Fearing economic and political chaos, the authoritarian regime in power tightened the border controls and all consulates and embassies were issued strict orders to avoid giving out too many passports and transit visas.

But did Sousa Mendes care? No! He immediately disobeyed the order, on grounds that it was “an inhumane and racist directive”. Despite being officially reprimanded, he continued issuing thousands of visas to refugees who flocked to his embassy in Bordeaux. He was eventually called back to Lisbon, where he was trialed and suffered disciplinary punishments.

The regime took credit for receiving all those refugees, and history books of the time mention the benevolence of the dictator… but in reality, it was Sousa Mendes (and a few people like him) who disobeyed the law and made Portugal a safe haven for many. Alas, they never made a movie about him(*), and his role in history was only recognized many decades later, when it was discovered that he had granted over 30,000 people safe passage to Portugal.

So… which historical character of your own country would you pick? We invite you to share something about a national historical figure in the postcards you send out this month.

(*) I stand corrected: Jéssica (aka J2404Pt) sent me a nice message to let me know they did make a movie about Aristides in 2011! It’s called the Consul of Bordeaux, and I’m off to the local library, to see if they have it there. Brilliant!

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33 comments so far

BevV, Zimbabwe
Oh wow, I love reading about WW2, my grandfather was half German Jew (his mother was Scottish), and he lost several cousins in the camps. Even though he was of Jewish descent, never been to Germany himself, and he had two sons fighting in Europe, he had to report to the nearest police station every week.
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ned44440, Ireland
All our 1916 people especially the brave ladies of the day who seldom get a mention - although in fairness, we did learn a lot more about them during our commemorations in 2016.
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strong_ocean, Belarus
Our ancestors did a lot for us. They deserve to be remembered. Wonderful topic!
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John_Doe, Germany
A great topic. Unfortunately there is not enough space on a postcard to really inform about the personalities.
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ALFAVIT, Russia
There are many people among Russians who can be remembered with a kind word. But as already mentioned, their fate is not always unambiguous.
But about those who care so dear to me, it is Mikhail Lomonosov, Alexander Pushkin, and, well, the Marshal of victory, George Zhukov.
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fatrasie, Russia
В апреле из исторических персон в России, конечно, в первую очередь вспоминаешь Юрия Гагарина. :)
In April, from historical persons in Russia, of course, first of all you remember Yuri Gagarin. :)
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ogait, Portugal
Great history ;) An example of a life dedicated to the common cause, without bothering with or with whom.

In 2017, Portugal did justice to this fellow. The Book of Registration of Visas granted by the Consul of Portugal in Bordeaux, Aristides de Sousa Mendes (1939-1940) was registered in Unesco as Memory of the World.
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yacine12, Algeria
Thank you, sir ♥
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athanasi, Greece
One historical person of my country -and the whole world, actually- is Hippocrates, The Father of Western Medicine! He was born on the Greek island of Kos. He travelled and practiced medicine in Greece and abroad. He spent the last days of his life and died in my native city, Larissa, central Greece...
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Olga-Phobus, Russia
I live in the very ancient Russian city of Pskov. Olga, a resident of Pskov, became a princess who ruled Kievan Rus from 945 to 960. She was the first ruler of Russia to adopt Christianity. She became a saint of the Russian Orthodox Church.
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KeepItReal, Germany
I live in Magdeburg and a famous historical person from my hometown is Otto von Guericke, a scientist , inventor, and politician. His major scientific achievements were the establishment of the physics of vacuums, the discovery of an experimental method for clearly demonstrating electrostatic repulsion, and his advocacy for the reality of "action at a distance" and of "absolute space".
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joke2011, Netherlands
Hallo, and where are the women? 11 comments so far, and no woman mentioned. I name Anna Maria van Schuurman (1607-17678), first female student on a Dutch University (literature and theology). She became a well-known scientist worldwide
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betslets, United States of America
Ok, joke2011 -- I am mentioning a woman who has been an important person in American history, and one, when whose name is mentioned today, is directly related to our American flag. Her name is Betsy Ross.
She has been credited for designing and/or actually sewing the first flag of our country (which has evolved to what it is today). Whether that story is true, she was an accomplished seamstress, and businesswoman, and probably more importantly, known as an independent woman who overcame obstacles to become an example of what women of her time experienced. She represents the contributions of women and their role in the founding of the Untied States of America.
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Talal90Ahmed, Iraq
we have in our country imam kasem - he died before 1400 years ago- we love him he was son imam hussein bin ali-
iraq. baghdad"s lion--
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Regndroppar, Finland
Speaking of notable historical women, I'd probably mention Minna Canth (1844-1897), a Finnish author, journalist and a notable playwright whose works represented realism of the 19th century. She worked to improve women's status in the society and wasn't afraid to give her opinion on various topics.
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notmadyet, Ukraine
I just read about Aristides de Sousa Mendes in Yuval Noah Harari's Homo Deus --- fascinating story! I was trying to remember the name of Stanislav Petrov, and stumbled upon another Cold War hero who may have also averted an all-out nuclear war by voting no to launch nuclear weapons against a US fleet that had found their submarine: Vasili Arkhipov.
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pxl1003, Taiwan
I am from Taiwan.I have a historical figure that I admire.His name is Lin Xiantang.(1881-1956)At that time, Taiwan was ruled by Japan.He resisted Japan by non-military force.I am impressed.
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AmitxSahoo, India
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi also known as Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Since 1997, Every Indian banknote denomination has his picture.

Jai Hind ♥
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realfantasy, Russia
Very interesting topic. In Russia, of course, a month ago, when they remember the flight of the first man into space, Yuri Gagarin. This is the pride of Russia. He said, "Let's go!" and waved his hand. April 12 is Cosmonautics Day. We have prepared a special issue of postcards for this day. I will send to those whose addresses the system will give me.
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AsmaJay, United Arab Emirates
Read about the wisest man ever "Zayed bin Sultan"
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Joerg1971, Germany
Martin Luther (1483-1546), a german professor of theology, composer, priest, monk, and a leading figure in the Protestant Reformation.

He was ordained to priesthood in 1507, but came to reject teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church; Luther proposed an academic discussion of the practice and efficacy of indulgences in "95 Theses" of 1517 and did not renounce his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521, the result was his excommunication by the pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the Holy Roman Emperor. Those who identify with the ideas of him and all of his wider teachings, are called Lutherans.
His translation of the Bible into German (instead of Latin) made it more accessible to read, an event with a tremendous impact on the church and German culture. It fostered the development of a standard version of the German language, added several principles to the art of translation, and influenced the writing of an English translation, the Tyndale Bible. His hymns influenced the development of singing in Protestant churches. His marriage to Katharina von Bora, a former nun, set a model for the practice of clerical marriage, allowing Protestant clergy to marry.
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Day-lilies, China
Lei Feng, who had done many good things in his life and helped many people, later died when he was only 22 years old. The Chinese set up Lei Feng Memorial Day for him.
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NinaU, Russia
I think that in every country there is a person whom the whole nation and descendants are proud of. Recently, I read the book "Young Guard" about the feat of youth, schoolchildren in the fight against the Nazis in Ukraine. Their name is the streets in many cities of the Soviet Union. Victor Tretyakevich, Ivan Zemnukhov, Oleg Koshevoy, Uliana Gromova, Sergey Tyulenin, Lyubov Shevtsova, Ivan Turkevich, Vasily Levashov. They gave their young lives to save the world from evil.
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mdam22, Australia
Great topic! I'm a big believer in trying to identify women in history who have had a big impact. Women are often invisible in the written histories but they're there if you look hard enough!! How many amazing women can we find to write about and celebrate :) Happy Postcrossing
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celticshk, Hong Kong
Someone on Postcrossing will be the lucky one to receive a Bruce Lee postcard this month (with brief bio of him.) :P
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Soili, Finland
The famous woman on Finland is Helvi Sipilä.She was a lawyer and worked on The United Nations.
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Worlds_Away, Portugal
My deepest thanks to all suffragists and suffragettes, in particular Carolina Beatriz Ângelo.
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Phibatola, Greece
Honestly, I wouldn't know who to pick from our history... It would be impossible to decide...
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Blackie85, Turkey
In Turkey, it would be Ataturk. Atatürk was a Turkish nationalist leader and founder and first president of the republic of Turkey.
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IEONG, Australia
Wanna mention an important Italian Jesuit priest called Matteo Ricci, S.J (利瑪竇), the first Jesuit priest came to Macau in 1583 (明神宗萬曆十一年). He was the first foreigner from European read Chinese traditional literature and translated them into various European languages. He travelled to many cities in China and disseminated western culture to promote communication between China and European countries. To commemorate his contribution, the emperor designated a Buddhist temple for him to rest in peace in 1610.
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abbyrose6571, United States of America
The postcards I send are space themed and so I decided to go with Sally Ride for my person, first American woman in space!
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wildernesscat, Israel
For Israel, I think I'd choose Eliezer Ben-Yehuda. He is the person responsible for the revival of the Hebrew language in the beginning of the 20th century. Until then Hebrew was a classical language, used only in the holy scriptures, and in the works of some poets. Nobody knew it well enough, and it lacked lots of words for modern concepts. Ben-Yehuda expanded the vocabulary, introducing hundreds of new words, and promoted the use of the language in daily life. The results of his work are evident today - Modern Hebrew is the most common spoken language in Israel.
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SchnickSchnack, Germany
As I am from Germany and have a faible for medieval times:

Hildegard of Bingen, a nun deeply interested in healing, music..
*1098


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hildegard_of_Bingen

Some centuries later: Dr. Johann(es) Weyer or Wier.
Born in NL he spent his last years at the castle of the count of Tecklenburg and convinced him not to believe in superstition about witches.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Weyer


I am from Tecklenburg, worked several years as a tourist guide there - and Weyer I always talked about to all the groups.
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