Military conflicts

When we watch news about armed conflicts some concepts and words sound familiar or neutral, e.g. combat, rebellion, uprising, coup d’état, skirmishes, attacks, ambush, guerrilla, bombing etc., but there is a word, or rather a phenomenon, that we find difficult to comprehend in this day and age – child soldiers. To add fuel to the fire, the stories of underage fighters drawn into conflicts, kidnapped, drugged, brainwashed and abused by their commanders have nothing to do with the records of youngsters devoted to the cause that we read at school (e.g. little Warsaw insurgents who supported their siblings and parents in their fight against oppression).

Warmongers and warlords in various rogue states, eager to gain influence, wealth and escalate conflicts have long resorted to inhumane ways of enlarging their fighting capability. A number of filmmakers, artists, activists and NGOs have worked hard to draw our attention to the issue. The figures vary, but in 2020 alone, the UN and US State Department named about 14 countries, where children are brutally used as soldiers in the local conflicts (Cameroon, Libya, and Nigeria – added this year).*

Blood Diamond is a film that makes us face the traumatic reality of child soldiers’ life in a much more powerful way than any news feed. One of its main plots revolves around a story of a boy transformed into a soldier in Sierra Leone in the 1990s and the struggle of his father to free the son from the horror of war.

Watch the trailer and then read the UNICEF article. Having done that, complete the vocabulary tasks below with the words used in the text.

‘Blood Diamond’ film screening highlights the plight of child soldiers
NEW YORK, USA, 1 December 2006 – Forced into armed combat in Sierra Leone during the 1990s, a young boy has been transformed into a soldier. His father struggles to free him from the dangerous life …

Task 1 Match the words below to form meaningful collocations: force somebody toa. the wrongs done to their own families
2. to enlist to escapeb. to outlaw the use of children in combat
3. to avengec. abduction or enlistment
4. to live as refugees ord. poverty, abuse and discrimination
5. to call upon all nationse. to be displaced
6. to provide a legal framework to preventf. join military factions

Task 2

What needs to be done to cure the emotional scars of the former child soldiers? Use the words from the box/text to get the answers.


We need to __________ children and ________ them to society. They often struggle a lot before they get  ___________ into their community, so we have to  ________a protective environment to ________ the transition and help them _______ a sense of normalcy in their lives.


Is it possible to reintegrate a child that has gone through such trauma into society? Meet two former child soldiers, a human rights activist and a musician to see that there is always light at the end of the tunnel☺

Child Recruitment and Use – Bureau de la Représentante spéciale du Secrétaire général pour la …
A child stands on the day before his release from an armed group in South Sudan. Photo: UNICEF

Art against war

Artists of different eras responded to atrocities of war in their own ways. See the examples below and think what other works of art could be added here.

Recent anti-war exhibitions in Poland

World War II – Drama, Symbol, Trauma – MOCAK
In preparing an exhibition about World War II, we had no ambition to chart its history but rather to focus on some threads that have had the greatest impact on the Polish consciousness. Artworks are …

Never Again – Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw
The exhibition “Never Again. Art against War and Fascism in the 20th and 21st centuries', organised on the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II relies on three precisely determined…


Maja Witowska-Rubaszek

Kasia Szczepaniak

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