November 23rd, 2017

City honours its war dead

Cadet has learned from family’s stories
J.W. Schnarr
Lethbridge Herald
jwschnarr@lethbridgeherald.com
Local residents came together to honour the war dead on Saturday as part of Remembrance Day observances at Exhibition Park and the Cenotaph near City Hall.
Honorary Parade Marshall Joseph Green served as an instrument mechanic during The Second World War and recalled a time when he was stationed in England and he and some friends decided they would like to go for beers at a local pub.
They were told about a nearby establishment Canadian soldiers frequented, and decided to head there. But on the way, air raid sirens sent them running for cover in a nearby bomb shelter.
After the danger had passed, the group continued to the establishment.
“We got to the pub and it was bombed,” said Green. “Six Canadian soldiers were killed. If we had been there a half hour earlier, I wouldn’t be here.
“That was my entrance to England. It was absolutely amazing.”
Ultimately, Green would spend time in England, Ireland, and Scotland with the 407 Squadron.
“Looking after the airplanes was a big job to make sure they were in good shape,” he said. “And we were on the ground, but we had lots of Germans bombing our stations and we had to be careful.”
Longtime cadet Bianca Christakos spoke about how war affected her grandparents, and what she has learned from their stories.
Christakos was part of the cadets in Taber and, after moving to Stirling with her family, Lethbridge cadets. She is now an RCAF officer cadet with the Vulcan Cadet Gliding Centre.
Her grandmother grew up in southern France. While her life was based on simple farming, it all changed in 1943 when the German military took control of the area.
Her village was protected from occupation by resistance fighters — including her brother.
“He left the house in 1943, and she didn’t see him again for almost two years,” Christakos said. “Every couple weeks, her older sister would head into the woods with a sack of food slung over her shoulder. When she returned, the bag was empty. But she refused to say where it had gone.”
The brother returned at the end of the war, but so ingrained was Nazi punishment for the families and friends of resistance fighters, Christakos’ grandmother is nervous to speak about her brother’s involvement to this day.
Christakos’ grandfather was drafted into service by the French military during the Algerian War. It wasn’t until after Christakos’ grandparents were married that her grandmother learned how deeply he had been affected by his time in Algeria.
“He was silent then, and for years afterwards,” said Christakos.
Now losing his memory, he sometimes forgets the faces of family members. But the details of the horrors he experienced in Algeria remain fresh in his mind.
“There’s a man he met in Algeria once he can’t seem to forget,” she said.
Her grandfather had come over a sand dune and found himself face-to-face with an Algerian soldier. The two looked at each other until the Algerian raised his weapon and Christakos’ grandfather shot him.
“The Algerian fell into the sand,” Christakos said. “But his expression of surprise and fear has stayed with my grandfather for over 50 years.”
Christakos said the impact war had on her grandfather is similar to many who have survived conflict zones.
“He wasn’t killed in any war,” she said. “But he traded his innocence for survival, and has been paying for it every day since.”
She then spoke about the terrible price Canada has paid to go to war, and asked those in attendance to devote themselves to preserving the traditions of Remembrance Day and the loss of so many lives.
“Let us devote every ounce of reverent gratitude we can muster to preserve this tradition of remembrance, in the hopes of creating a world where we don’t have to lose one more,” she said.
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