Memorial circles planned for victims of coronavirus


Monuments for remembrance and reflection will be placed in communities across Flanders

Space to think

A plan to build commemorative monuments in communities across Flanders will go ahead with the backing of the Flemish government. The idea is to create somewhere people can remember loved ones lost to the corona virus, reflect, and think about the future.

The first circular monument is due to be inaugurated on 13 March, a year after the first lockdown measures were introduced in Belgium. The exact locations that will host the circles, called “Onuments”, have yet to be decided.

“Local authorities can work with their residents to consider the best location for such a memorial,” said Bart Somers, communities minister in the Flemish government. This week he announced a grant of €75,000 to Kunstwerkt, the non-profit organisation that will administer the initiative. This budget should be enough to build five Onuments.

Power of the group

The inspiration for the scheme came from the memorial in the Sonian forest to the victims of the 2016 terrorist attacks in Zaventem and Maelbeek (pictured). Designed by landscape artist Bas Smets, it consists of a large circular bench in blue stone, surrounded by 32 birch trees, one for each victim.

This made psychologist Uus Knops, a specialist in mourning, think that other communities could benefit from similar memorials. “So I contacted Bas Smets and asked if something similar could be done, but for the corona pandemic, that other attack on our society,” she told De Morgen.

A circle is a symbol of life and hope, of looking to tomorrow and the future

- Elke Van Hoof

The Onuments will not be copies of the monument in the Sonian forest, nor will they be identical. Instead they will be adapted to each site. The aim is to create a place people can mourn their loved ones, but also somewhere they can seek hope and inspiration.

According to Elke Van Hoof, a clinical psychologist at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel who is also involved in the initiative, such thinking places have become even more important during the pandemic.

“A circle is a symbol of life and hope, of looking to tomorrow and the future,” she said. “They are a reminder of the power of the group and how we can be strong together.”

Somers agreed: “With this initiative, we want to create places of reflection all over Flanders, places where people will be able to mourn, commemorate and meet others together if they need to.”

Photo: Belga/Thierry Roge