By: Zig Misiak
The official end of WW2 was Sept. 2, 1945 with the surrender of Japan. It was a ‘world war’ and even though most of us focused on the war in Europe, ending on May 8, 1945, the allied nations continued to fight after ‘Victory in Europe’; VE Day.
That was 75 years ago this year. Covid 19 has clearly disrupted the norms in our lives tremendously so many of us either forgot it, weren’t able to participate in great numbers to commemorate either date or simply didn’t care.
World War Two was very relevant to baby-boomers like me. I was born in Europe in 1947 just two years after the end of WW2. The country of my lineage was devastated during that war. I never got to know aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins nor nieces and nephews. Why? Because some were killed during the war and others were dispersed all over the world. It was only my mother, father and I that arrived into the warm and embracing arms of this country, Canada, in 1950.
My story is not unlike millions of other stories told and experienced by people of ‘all’ nationalities, be they labelled as allies or the foe. All humans bleed.
MP Phil McColeman, WW2 pilot Lloyd Bentley and Scott Clare (his father was captured at the first Canadian raid on Dieppe 1942) attended an international ‘remembrance’ on the beaches of Normandy in 2019. They reported that WW2 veterans, allies and beligerants, were together commemorating this event. For me to have seen the photos of all of them together was heartwarming and humanity at its best. It’s not the common man/woman that starts wars but it sure is the everyday man/woman who suffer the brunt of the losses; for generations after. Casualties after this war were calculated to be over 85,000,000 (accounts vary) dead military and civilians plus wounded. The emotional scars are still carried by 100’s of millions to this very day as not a single family was exempt from its horror.
When I was growing up in Brantford, I recall having met WW1 veterans. Yes, when I was 12 years old in 1959, these vets ranged in and around 60 years old. Some were as young, or younger, than 16 in 1914 when WW1 started. Many in their 40’s in 1939 when WW2 started, joined the army then as well.
The official end of WW1, November 11, 1918 (102 years ago), the ‘war to end all wars’ had casualties of over 40,000,000 that included both military and civilians (of all ages); dead and wounded. November 11th was chosen and referred to as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day as we know it. It’s only celebrated by some 50 countries in the world. The symbolic poppies are generally only common in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
Even though Nov. 11th has been recognized as the official date (post WW1) of ‘remembrance’ for years, I’ve chosen to go back even further. The War of 1812 was a turning point in this country’s history. Men, women and children were killed and/or wounded then as well. I’ve always felt that the inclusion of all the conflicts from the end of that war, 1814, is a part of our collective remembrances hence the poster created by Slawek Dobrowolski and his class is a wonderful visual of that inclusion.
This year we won’t be able to gather at our cenotaphs in Brantford, Six Nations Territory or within our county nor likely across Canada and in fact anywhere in the world. We have to embrace a temporary format reminding ourselves that ‘remembrance’ is where the heart is; wherever we may be.
Neither of the ‘great wars’, WW1 or WW2, ended our human aggression. We haven’t stopped hurting one another since the beginning of human-kind. Today on our planet, we have about 50 active armed conflicts but these facts shouldn’t stop us from remembering those that sacrificed themselves for our freedoms.
As a member of the SPK (Polish Combatant’s Association) I only know of the following people that we’ve recently lost. WW2 Polish veterans, Mr. P. Lojko, Mr. L. Dubicki and Mr. Édouard Podyma as well as Canadian pilot Mr. Lloyd Bentley, WW2 Polish survivor Mrs. M. Michniewicz and Dutch survivor Mr. J. Reyenga.
Soon there will be no survivors of WW2 that we can hear from personally nor will we have them to look into their eyes or give them a hug or handshake. The least we can do is give those that are still with us the courtesy of a ‘remembrance’ and those souls that are gone a prayer of ‘remembrance’.
A request made in Colonel John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Fields, “To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high.” I’ve been carrying that torch all my life. Will you continue to join me?
Oddajemy Cześć Bohaterowi
We Salute You Heroes
Zig Misiak VP SPK Br#4 Brantford
About the Author: Zig Misiak
Zig Misiak is a Polish WW2 baby-refugee arriving in Canada in 1950, age 3, with his parents. Raised in Brantford, Ontario Canada he became very interested in his neighbours, the Grand River Six Nations People. For over 50 years he has developed a respect and deep interest in their history/culture both past and present.
Real Peoples History (RPH), of Canada, has created, and continues to create, grass-roots trusted & enriched educational content supporting First Nations, Métis & Inuit Connections in school curriculum.
For more information about Zig and his books, please visit: https://www.canadianauthoreducation.com/