Published on 18th April, 2024

The Martyr and the Red Kimono

A Fearless Priest’s Sacrifice and A New Generation of Hope in Japan

The remarkable true story of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, and the two men in war-torn Japan whose lives he changed forever.

On the 14th of August 1941, a Polish priest named Maximilian Maria Kolbe was murdered in Auschwitz.

Kolbe’s life had been remarkable. Fiercely intelligent and driven, he founded a movement of Catholicism and spent several years in Nagasaki, ministering to the ‘hidden Christians’ who had emerged after centuries of oppression. A Polish nationalist as well as a priest, he gave sanctuary to fleeing refugees and ran Poland’s largest publishing operation, drawing the wrath of the Nazis. His death was no less remarkable: he volunteered to die, saving the life of a fellow prisoner.

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‘Cherry’ Ingram

The Englishman Who Saved Japan’s Blossoms

Collingwood Ingram, born in 1880, became known as ‘Cherry’ for his defining obsession. As a young man, he travelled to Japan and learned of the astonishing displays of cherry blossoms, or sakura.

On a return visit in 1926, Ingram witnessed frightening changes to the country’s cherry population. A cloned variety was sweeping the landscape and being used as a symbol for Japan’s expansionist ambitions. Determined to protect the diversity of the trees, Ingram began sending the rare varieties from his own garden in England back to Japan with the help of a network of ‘cherry guardians’.

This is an eloquent portrait of an extraordinary man whose legacy we enjoy every spring, and his unsung place in botanic history.

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