Sunday, November 11, 2007

Remembrance day

November 11 -- Remembrance Day.

As a child I wondered why the fuss over this day. I had thought that this day was a day of horror. Who would want to remember the wars. The millions of people (children, women, men) who lost their lives. The pain, suffering, fearfulness, that filled those years.

Today, I am filled with a mix of gratitude and sadness. Over the years as I heard more and more stories of our families involvements with the events of 1939 to 1945, it became much more personal. I was born in Holland during the 50's, both my parents being children during world war II.

On one side, being forced to billet enemy soldiers, showing defiance by planting orange flowers, playing games of courage by running across the tops of forbidden dikes, being able to watch bullets zip through the tall grass towards them. The silence of the terror. Of young and not so young men being forced into slavery back in Germany.

On another side, different, the same. When I was in my twenties, my Opa brought down a cardboard tube, asking me to open it. It was marked "top secret" and was from the U.S. military. I opened it and read a letter of thanks and commendation for harboring U.S. air men who had been shot down behind enemy lines. Part of an tunnel out of Europe. My parent speaks of being so afraid as German soldiers searched the house. Of how my grandfather had to hide deep in a swamp to avoid capture. Of fire fights outside their house, bullets passing through the house. How after one such fight was over, finding a bullet hole through the dress of one of the children, this happening while they were huddled together in their kitchen.

When I was an apprentice, there was a man who ran the tool crib. He had a steel plate in his head, he had very poor vision. When I asked him how, he told a story of being in the Canadian army, fighting in Holland, shrapnel striking him. The dikes had been broken prior to him being hit, he was chest deep in cold water, unable to see. Moving through a barn, he found an oasis of warmth, moving into the centre of a manure pit, he stayed warm until he was rescued.

Stories of courage through fear. From ordinary people. Millions of stories.

I live in Canada, free and simple, because of the courage of many many others. My story is incidental, happening long after the war was over. My life is directly affected by their actions. I would not have been born if not for them.

I remember them with thankfulness, with gratitude, seeing the providence.

1 comment:

Mary Christine said...

Thank you for sharing this. My sponsor was a child in England during WWII... she tells similar stories from her childhood. It is amazing what a human being can endure.