Sunday | July 22, 2018

Gord Allen served in the Canadian Army during the Second World War. He grew up in prewar Toronto, where he remembers the tough times of the Great Depression; Gord recalls his father being out of work, and he remembers that he and his friends used to bring food to the homeless men down in the Don Valley. Gord did recall some of the good times, the sports and the movies that kept he and his friends occupied; at the same time, Gord admitted that he was unable to finish high school as he had to help out around the house. By the time of the war, the young Gord was married, with a family on the way, but even with this life development, Gord felt it was his duty to enlist when the time came. The air force was his first choice, but when that did not work out, Gord joined the army, and he was soon sent to Camp Borden. While there, Gord opted for the tank corps, hoping for more action. As the army was being reorganized for the new technological warfare of the battlefields in Europe, Gord ended up in the 17th Light Ambulance, in the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade. They would attend to the wounded and/or evacuate them back to Headquarters for hospitalization. Within the unit Gord was a motorcycle dispatch courier, so he would communicate information from the frontline tank infantry to the ambulance unit right behind. In this capacity Gord found himself right in the front lines, where he witnessed the horror of Caen, Falaise, and so many other battles in France, Belgium and Holland. Along the way Gord was himself seriously injured in Bruges, where an accident left him paralyzed for several weeks. Still, once back in health, he rejoined the unit and ended up in Germany at war’s end, where he remembers VE Day as a hollow victory. With the end of the war, Gord remained on the continent for a few months, delivering relief supplies for UNRRA. By the end of the year though, he was on his way back to Canada and his family, where he fell back into the rhythm of civilian life and Canada’s postwar rebuilding.
Mr. Masters visited Gord at his home in Fowler’s Corner, Ontario in July 2018, when he was interviewed for this project. We thank Gord’s family for their help in setting this up.

July 13th, 2018

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Harry Preston served in the Canadian army during World War Two.  He grew up in western Canada, in and around Winnipeg, where Harry and his family experienced the realities of the Depression.  Harry kept himself busy though, and with friends, he got involved in the militia and the Sea Cadets, where he was able to do training that would help him in the war to come.  Harry joined the Winnipeg Rifles with the coming of the war, but when the opportunity to specialize in artillery came, Harry took it.  He was trained as an anti-aircraft gunner, a process that intensified upon arrival in England.  Harry was often stationed in vulnerable areas as England was repeatedly bombed in the 1942-44 period; he defended radar stations, airfields, and coastal zones.  While in England, Harry  – like so many young Canadian soldiers – met an Englishwoman and fell in love, later marrying this Land Army worker and bringing her to Canada.  First, Harry endured the European campaign.  He was sent to France after D-Day, and now a member of a self-propelled gun crew, he and his team provided support to the advancing Canadian infantry as they moved through France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and into Germany itself.  With VE Day, Harry returned to England and once his wife was cleared for passage to Canada, they made the trip together, settling and building a life for themselves in the postwar period.

We met Harry at the Sunnybrook Veterans’ Wing in June 2018, where he was interviewed by Mr. Masters and a delegation of CPC students.

July 5th, 2018

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Richard Field served in Canada’s 2nd Division during World War Two. He grew up in Toronto during the Depression years, where he was able to finish school and join the prewar militia and sea cadets, two organizations that would teach him many valuable lessons in the upcoming war years. When Richard moved into the regular army, he chose the artillery, where he learned all the facets of life in a 25-pounder crew. His training began in Canada, and after an uneventful troopship passage across the Atlantic, it continued in England. Shortly after D-Day, Richard’s crew was sent to Normandy and quickly into Belgium and the Netherlands, and Germany itself. As an artillery crewman, Richard provided support to the front line infantry troops, and he remembered intense battles in the Reichswald Forest and other sites along the route.
We met Richard at the Sunnybrook Veterans’ Wing in June 2018, where he was interviewed by a delegation of Crestwood students and Mr. Masters.

June 27th, 2018

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Dr. Stephen O’Rourke is the grandfather of Crestwood student Ella Lee-O’Rourke.  Dr. O’Rourke originally hails from Ireland, where he grew up on a farm during the wartime years.  Blessed with academic ability, his parents made sure he attended school, and Dr. O’Rourke’s education in both public and high school came courtesy of the Christian Brothers.  That was followed by his time at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, where the young Stephen enjoyed time in the big city while he pursued his medical studies.  During this time the Cold War was heating up, and Stephen came across an ad in the newspaper while doing his internship, one placed by the Canadian Forces.  Canada was involved in the Korean War at the time, and was in need of medical personnel.  Stephen made the leap and enlisted, quickly becoming a captain in the Canadian army.  He was dispatched to Canada, where he learned that the first part of his three year stint would be spent in the Arctic.  He went north to Fort Churchill, Manitoba, where a new hospital had been built, and that became his introduction to life in Canada.  Stephen spent two years there, looking after the indigenous peoples and the Mounties and everyone else who needed his care.  From there he took an eventful trip to Ireland, courtesy of the American military, and that was followed by his deployment to Korea, where he cared for Canadian and Australian troops as the Korean War reached its conclusion.  The 1953 truce saw his return to Canada, where his discharge from the army led to work at various hospitals in Toronto, including St. Mike’s and Sunnybrook.  Along the way Stephen married and raised a family.

We first met Stephen at the Crestwood Veterans’ Breakfast in May 2018, and that was followed by an interview at his residence in June 2018, where Mr. Masters and four senior students spoke to him, courtesy of his daughter Kit.

June 20th, 2018

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Herb Pike is a Canadian veteran of the Second World War, and a proud member of the 48th Highlanders.  Herb grew up in prewar Toronto, where he remembers living a relatively good life, even against the backdrop of the Great Depression.  When in Toronto, Herb attended Bowmore Road Public School, and then Central Tech; he also spent time in the United States, when his mother moved there for work for a few years.  Back in Canada, Herb enlisted early on, hoping to secure a spot in the RCAF.  Unable to join their ranks because of age, Herb was undaunted and found an army recruiting office a few blocks away.  He signed the papers, and was soon off to training in Guelph and Kitchener.  Not too long after that, he made the trip to Halifax, and a troop ship took him to England, where a short stint in Aldershot was followed by a trip to Sicily, where he went into action for the first time.  Italy was the next destination, and here the 48th got into the thick of it, fighting through Ortona, Montecassino and the Hitler Line; Herb was wounded by shrapnel on one occasion, but he was back to his unit quickly.  In 1944 the 48th was redeployed to the northern Europe campaign, where they took part in the liberation of Belgium and the Netherlands.  Many of Herb’s fondest memories and proudest moments come from this part of the war, especially the city of Appeldoorn.  With VE Day, it wasn’t long before the 48th returned to England, and then to Canada.  Welcomed home by family, Herb went to work, and began to play his role in Canada’s postwar rebirth.  Within a few years he was married and had a family, happily falling into the rhythm of civilian life.
We met Herb Pike courtesy of the Memory Project, and Scott Masters interviewed him in his home in May 2018.

June 18th, 2018

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Russell Smith was born in 1919 in Toronto, and he grew up in Toronto during the interwar years.  Russell remembers well the difficulties of those Great Depression years, especially as he grew up in a family of eleven children, and his single mother needed all the help she could get.  The third eldest, Russell left school early on; the family needed any and all income, and Russell worked where he could – as a delivery boy, an apprentice bookbinder, whatever it took…With money tight, Russell remembers that he and his siblings did what they could to have fun, but for him it was about his bicycle, which was his transportation as well as a source of enjoyment.  Looking for something to occupy his time, Russell enlisted in the militia, and went into the interwar cavalry – he loved the horses and grew to love the discipline and mission that the military life brought to him.  With the coming of the war – an event that Russell and the other militiamen knew was on the way – Russell went into the army proper, where he excelled in the different facets of army life.  He was such a good soldier that the army made him a drill instructor, and in this capacity he helped to train Canada’s fighting men for that conflict.  Russell rose through the ranks during his time at Camp Borden, and he continued this during his time at Aldershot, the site of Canada’s overseas encampment in Britain.  Russell recalled the training and personalities in great depth, as recounted in this discussion.

Russell Smith was referred to us via the Memory Project, and he joins the ranks of the many collaborative ventures that we have done with that organization over the years.  Russell was interviewed for this project in May 2018, when Scott Masters visited him at his home in Oshawa.

June 15th, 2018

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Meng Fan was born in 1926 in Sumatra, Dutch East Indies, which now is Indonesia. Later he moved to Hong Kong.  When war came, Hong Kong had to support in war efforts. However, Hong Kong was lacking resources such as food. Meng Fan volunteered to join the army. He started with training and was barely 20 years old on the battlefields. He worked closely with the  American G.I as an army translator and soldier.  After the war he did some business but did not go well. Later in his years he moved to Canada with his family when China was recovering from the tragic aftermath. He is currently 92 years old. Fan MengXiang was interviewed by Miranda Su, Martin Chang, David Huang, and Arielle Meyer at the Sunnybrook Veterans’ Wing on November 3, 2017.

April 16th, 2018

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Lou Hoffer was born in the northern province of Bukovina, Romania in a small  town called Vijnitz. His exact date of birth is uncertain; however, it was around 1927. In 1939, the Russians and the Germans had invaded Poland making the neighbours to the north no longer under Polish rule but Russian. A  year later Russia gave Romania an ultimatum to withdraw from the two northern provinces, Bukovina and Bessarabia, within 24 hours and they did. The town of Viznitz in which Lou was growing up was now under Russian occupation. By 1941, everyone in the town of Viznitz was deported and sent across the Dniester River to the territory of Transnistria. On the way to the death camp to Transnistria, at the age of 12, Lou had seen the messages left behind by people who were taken prior to his deportation; that day he took an oath that he would make sure to share the truth with the world if he survived. The  conditions in the camps were so terrible that approximately 300,000 Jews died. In March of 1944, Lou and his family were liberated by the Soviet Army. With no place to go, he was fortunate enough to be allowed into Canada. He endured many hardships when he first arrived to Canada but at the end,  he succeeded and met his wife Magda with whom he raised a beautiful family.

Lou was interviewed for this project at Baycrest in January 2018 by a delegation of CHC2D students.

April 6th, 2018

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Gord Cameron was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1921. Gord lived in the west end with his dad, mom, and sister. Gord went to the University of Toronto school. When the war came, his medical school and internship were accelerated, as the army wanted him in their service.  By the time he was ready, the war was winding down, and Gord spent most of his time dealing with convalescent soldiers in Toronto, as well as on the troopships.  With the end of the war, Gord fell into the rhythm of civilian life, going into practice and making a life with his family.  Gord is a father of four; he has two girls and two boys.

Gord was interviewed for this project by a delegation of CHC2D students in January 2018.

 

April 4th, 2018

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The Crestwood Oral History Project is hard at work this month. World War Two veterans and Holocaust survivors have been visiting with the CHC2D students, helping them to complete their oral history interviews.  Earlier this week Mr. Masters and Mr. Hawkins took 21 students to Sunnybrook, where 5 veterans were interviewed.  They included army, navy and air force veterans from World War Two.  Please watch the webpage for updates – http://www.crestwood.on.ca/ohp/.

               

               

February 1st, 2018

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Chang Shiying grew up in the Chinese city of Nanjing, where his family held a prominent position in the community. Born in the early 1930s, Mr. Chang was a child of 4 when the War of Japanese Aggression reached his city. Unlike so many others, the Chang family had heard the news of the Japanese advance, and they were able to get out of the city just before the horrific massacre began. They were able to hide in an adjacent village, where conditions were very difficult for the family. Even though they escaped the worst of the Rape of Nanjing, they lost many family members at the hands of the Japanese perpetrators, as well as to disease and starvation.
When the darkest days of the massacre were over, the Chang family moved back to Nanjing. They discovered that their house had been ransacked, so they did what they could, and they endured the taunts of the Japanese occupiers. Mr. Chang grew up against the backdrop of war, and he remembers well the abuses the people of Nanjing suffered, including the “comfort women” he saw in his old neighbourhood. With the end of the war, China fell into civil conflict, and much of Mr. Chang’s family fled to Taiwan. He remained though, playing a role in the revolutionary army and studying to become a doctor, which became his career.
He made the decision to emigrate to Canada much later, following family connections. Mr. Chang was interviewed for this project by Crestwood alumnus Daven Siu and his mother June Ong, who shared the video with Mr. Masters. Translation by Sarah Li followed. We thank all for their contributions.

February 1st, 2018

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Larry Bunston was born in Saskatoon, but early in his life his father made the decision to take the family to Ontario, hopefully to make a better life for his family.  Larry grew up in different parts of Ontario, notably Oshawa and Brantford, where he and his four brothers played sports and kept on their parents’ good side.  With the coming of the war, all four brothers enlisted, and Larry and another brother  made it overseas.  Larry went into the army, and after training at Camp Borden, he made his way down east, where a troop ship awaited him in Halifax.  In England he was trained as a despatch rider, with motorcycle and truck driving lessons in his future.  He crossed over to France shortly after D-Day, where he found himself in many precarious positions as he fulfilled his driving duties.  Several times he was in search of broken down vehicles and almost fell into German hands.  Wounded near the end of the war, Larry was sent back to England and his future wife, and later they made their way together back to Canada, falling into the rhythm of Canada’s postwar boom.

We met Larry at the Tony Stacey Centre for Veterans’ Care in the east end of Toronto, where Larry was interviewed by Mr. Masters and Grade 12 student Navid Sarshar. We thank Jay Burford of the Royal Canadian Legion and Andy Barros at Tony Stacey for their help in setting up this connection.

January 26th, 2018

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Ikeda Koiichi was connected to the Japanese military during the Second World War, serving in a procurement capacity for the overseas army. He was born in the Maijuru region, where he remembers growing up poor. When the opportunity came, he began his time overseas, originally serving in Manchuria, and that is where he spent most of the war. When the end came in 1945, he and many other were making their way back to Japan when they were stopped at the northern border, arrested by Soviet troops. Ikeda and many others were detained in Siberia, trapped by the newly emerging Cold War. He spent several years there, detained in Siberia and then Uzbekistan. When he did return to Japan, Ikeda and many others took their case to court, where they have been trying to win compensation and recognition from the Japanese government.

Ikeda Koiichi was interviewed by Scott Masters and Shahmir Kyani in July 2017 at his home in Osaka, Japan. We are thankful to Naoko Jin for setting this interview up, and to Yoshie Ishikawa for her translation back in Toronto.

January 25th, 2018

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Gerry Grossmann was born in Dusseldorf, Germany, into a prosperous Jewish family.  Gerry remembers his childhood in fond terms, as his parents created a home where he and his brother had so many opportunities.  1933 saw a dramatic change though; with the election of Hitler, things changed for the Grossmanns and for all German Jews.  With each succeeding year, more and more was taken away, and with Kristallnacht, Gerry’s parents sensed what was on the way, and they made arrangements to have their young sons evacuated on the Kindertransport to Britain.  Gerry and his brother arrived in England, where they registered as “enemy aliens” and started over with English families.  School soon gave way to war work, as the now teenaged Gerry made his contribution to the war effort.  When he was old enough, he enlisted in the British army, where he spent time training in Scotland before being sent across the Channel to France.  There Gerry saw combat, as he fought to liberate his onetime homeland from Nazi oppression.  Gerry was in the Battle of the Bulge, and as the Allies resumed their push into Germany in the spring of 1945, Gerry was wounded and sidelined from the action for a time.  In the period after VE Day, Gerry learned the fate of his parents, both of whom were murdered in the Shoah, and the army capitalized on gerry’s language skills, as he became a translator/interpreter, going through the Nazis’ documentation and interviewing officers, and playing his role in creating a new standard of justice at Nuremberg.
We met Gerry thanks to Historica Dominion, and Crestwood alumna Savannah Yutman and Grade 12 students Rory Peckham and Malcolm Leask interviewed him at his home in December 2017.

January 22nd, 2018

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John Rowe was born in 1925 in Toronto, and he grew up in the city’s east end, in the Beach. John shared with us his memories of interwar Toronto, and what it was like growing up against the backdrop of the Great Depression. He remembered it as a time when everyone was the same, not knowing that they had nothing. In spite of the tough times and family’s financial situation, John had fond memories of the time, playing baseball with his friends and hanging out at Balmy Beach. When the war came, John said the rationing had some impacts on his family, but overall the expectation of sacrifice was there, and people largely complied with C.D. Howe’s regimen. When he turned 18, it was John’s time to register and join up, which he elected to do rather than chancing conscription. A family friend helped him to join the Armoured Corps, and he began his year in the army in October 1944. Quickly stricken down by a bout of appendicitis, his tank training was delayed, and by the time the spring of 1945 came around, the war was winding down. John was discharged, and he began to look for work, and to adjust to life in now postwar Toronto.

John was interviewed at his home by Scott Masters in December 2017.

January 7th, 2018

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Norm Short served in the Canadian Army during the Second World War.  Born in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland, the young Norm moved to Quebec along with his family when they settled in Shawinigan Falls.  When the war came, Norm joined up in Montreal, as part of the Essex Scottish Regiment.  he completed his basic training and waited until his 19th birthday, when he was sent overseas.  In England he was trained as a motorcycle dispatch rider.  After D-Day, Norm headed across the Channel on D+5, and he was called to duty as the Battle of Caen was raging.  Norm took part in the terrible Battle of Carpiquet, a costly Canadian victory before the Falaise Gap and the collapse of the German army in France.  Norm and his fellow soldiers moved across northern Europe, liberating towns and civilians and enjoying the fruits of their labours.  With VE Day, Norm headed back to England, and then Canada, settling into the postwar rhythm of life in Toronto.

We met Norm in the Sunnybrook Veterans’ Wing in December 2017, when he was interviewed by a delegation of Crestwood students over the December Break.

January 7th, 2018

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Kaneko Eishi served in the Japanese Imperial Army during World War Two.  From a working family near Kyoto, he grew up learning the traditions of interwar Japan, and he was imbued with the Shinto faith and an ardent athlete.  When the war came, he was identified as a strong math student, so the army prepared him for the signals corps, and he was given specialized training where he began to learn encryption and decryption in addition to the standard military regimen.  When his time came, he was sent to Manchuria for a time, where he practiced his signals and communications role.  From there he returned to Japan for a family visit, where the included photograph was taken.  The army next sent him to Bangkok, but American submarines thwarted their arrival and he ended up in the Philippines in 1944.  There, he and his men were constantly on the move, aiding their comrades and evading the Americans.  They finally surrendered in the summer of 1945, and later that summer they were returned to Japan, where Kaneko reunited with his family and began his postwar life.

Mr. Masters met Kaneko Eishi in Osaka, Japan in the summer of 1945, and he would like to thank Naoko Jin, who helped to set up the interview; former student Matthew Shapiro; Matt’s student Shahmir Kyani who aided in translating at the time of the interview; and Mr. Masters’ own student Yoshie Ishikawa, who did the translating and editing back in Toronto.

November 27th, 2017

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  • Mel Prideaux was born in Regina, Saskatchewan.   He grew up during the Great Depression, and had to face many challenges that an average family had to face.  He enlisted in the army with a couple friends before they were to go to university , but Mel was encouraged to become a training officer instead of going overseas with them.  After the war he went to Queen’s university and got a degree.  He then became a teacher and taught mostly English and history.  After teaching for several years he was promoted and eventually became an inspector.  Mel Prideaux was interviewed at Sunnybrook by Anthony Radford-Grant, Yuka Fan, Alex Wang, and Bora Kutun on September 22nd, 2017.

 

November 20th, 2017

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Michael Zarembo is a Lithuanian Jew, one of so many overwhelmed with the terrible events that befell his people and region during the war.  1941 saw the initiation of that horror…Germany initiated Operation Barbarossa, and within days Michael’s family was under the heel of the Nazi regime.  Life became increasingly difficult in the ghettos that were created, as Jewish families struggled to survive.  A mere teenager, Michael joined the Red Army, and he managed to survive several intense years of warfare, fighting as a member of a Jewish brigade charged with the liberation of Lithuania.  The Nazis and Lithuanian collaborators they were up against had nothing to lose, so the combat was intense.  Michael recalled their attempted flight over the Baltic Sea, and of the Soviet female fighter pilots who hunted them down.  Wounded in battle, Michael ended up in the hospital, and that is where the war came to an end, in a celebration Michael said he will remember forever.   He survived the war and the Shoah, and contributions on the battlefield helped to end both of those dark chapters.  He began to rebuild his life, a journey that would eventually take him to Canada.  

Michael Zarembo was interviewed at his home in July 2017, by Crestwood teacher Scott Masters.  The interview was set up courtesy of the Jewish War Veterans Association of Toronto, with special thanks to Anna Mordukhovich and her daughter Dorina.

Please note that this interview is in Russian, with English overdubs and translations.

October 12th, 2017

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Eugene Katz was born in Dyszna, Poland in in 1927.  He was one of five children, growing up in a Jewish family not too far from Vilna; he recalls a difficult life, beset by hunger and poverty, but also filled with family and friends.  When war came in 1939, Eugene’s family was in eastern Poland, the part of the country assigned to the USSR in the infamous 1939 Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact.  The family suddenly found itself under Soviet domination; as big a change as this was, life continued, though clear signs of Soviet communism began to enter their lives.  1941 saw the real change though…Germany initiated Operation Barbarossa, and within a matter of days Eugene’s family was under the heel of the Nazi regime.  The family was quickly put in a ghetto, and Eugene’s oldest sister Sophie was murdered.  Life became increasingly difficult in the ghetto, as the young Eugene and his family struggled to survive.  Then the darkest of days arrived, with the liquidation of the ghetto by the Einsatzgruppen.  Most of Eugene’s family was taken to a killing site and murdered.  Eugene was there, witnessing these terrible events, but he and his brother escaped, taking advantage of the fog and running into the forest.  Now a teenager, Eugene joined the Russian partisans, and he managed to survive four intense years of warfare, often the victim of political intrigue and anti-Semitism in the Red Army.  Very crafty and clever and willing to do what he had to, Eugene made it, the only member of his family to survive the war and the Shoah.  He began to rebuild his life, marrying and working in Riga, and in the 50s he made it to Poland, and from there Canada.  Every step of the way his survival instinct kept him afloat, and he went on to create a prosperous business in postwar Canada, helping to build the country we know today.

Eugene Katz was interviewed at his home in July 2017, by Crestwood teacher Scott Masters.  The interview was set up courtesy of the Jewish War Veterans Association of Toronto.

October 11th, 2017

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Pham Cong Lien lives outside Hanoi, Vietnam, in a state-sponsored home for the veterans of what the Vietnamese call the “American War”.  Mr. Pham turned eighteen and was conscripted by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) in 1967-68, just as the American involvement was reaching its apex.  Forced to leave school and his family behind, he went through brief military training before he followed the Ho Chi Minh Trial to the southernmost point of Vietnam.  After a brief period of combat, Mr. Pham was grievously wounded, the victim of a paralyzing back injury.  He was transported back to the north, where his medical treatment began.  With the North’s victory and the unification of Vietnam in 1974-75, Mr. Pham was moved to the veterans’ home, where he has resided ever since.  The state has and facility have since looked after him and his family, and have found ways for him to make his contribution to the national cause.

In July 2017 Crestwood teacher Scott Masters took part in Alpha Education’s Peace and Reconciliation Tour.  Seventeen educators, activists, lawyers, and documentarians toured China and Korea, learning about the Asian perspective on the Second World War, and exploring ways to raise awareness of this side of the war to a non-Asian audience.  The tour was organized by Don Tow, as part of his ongoing efforts to stimulate social justice education and to improve Asian-American understanding and relationships.  While overseas, Mr. Masters also visited Vietnam, where he was able to speak to Vietnamese people about the meaning of war in their recent national history.  Mr. Masters was able to visit and interview Pham Cong Lien with the help of Footstep Travel, and the translation efforts of Le Nguyen Giap.    

Please note that this interview is in Vietnamese, with the English translation at the end of each segment.

October 11th, 2017

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John Boyd was born in Alberta in 1915.  He grew up against the backdrop of the Great Depression, though he said he was lucky to have been sheltered from the toughest times.  The harsh conditions did push his politics to the left, and John was attracted to the leftist ideals of the time.  After graduating high school in Vegreville, he made his way to Toronto, where he eventually joined the armed forces, choosing the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals.  After training John was selected as an editor for the army magazine The Signalman.  He pursued this occupation after the war too, as journalism was a natural fit for John.

We met John at the Sunnybrook Veterans Wing in July 2017, when he was interviewed by Crestwood students Arielle Meyer and Samara Black.

October 11th, 2017

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Mary Jarvis grew up in Ontario in the prewar era, in the Markham area just north of Toronto.  She grew up in a conservative, church-going family, in what was then a largely rural community, and Mary recalls chafing just a bit against those restrictions; like her friends, she would have loved to enjoy the movies and dances that were making their appearance.  With the war, Mary enlisted, recalling it to be a duty and an expectation – and a way to escape those familial restrictions.  She chose the CWACs, and her training took her to Ottawa, where she learned to become a driver.  After time on the home front, she was sent off to England to play her role ferrying troops and equipment to the Channel ports.  Mary remembers driving the roads in the dead of night, and the talks she had with the wounded soldiers in her charge.  She also remembers fulfilling the rebellious streak that led her into the army, and the loss that was part of life – her fiance died on D-Day.  Soon back in Canada, she fell into the rhythm of civilian life, marrying and raising a family, and finding her way in postwar Canada

We met Mary at the Sunnybrook Veterans’ Wing, where Mary met with Crestwood students in April 2017.

May 29th, 2017

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Ken Allen is a Toronto resident in his 101st year, interviewed in April 2017 by Masters at the McCowan Retirement Residence.  Ken had many stories to share about his long life in and around Toronto.  Ken was born in the then village of Todmorden, in today’s Broadview-Danforth neighbourhood.  He remembers a very different Toronto, one with dirt roads and wooden sidewalks, where he spent his early days playing in the Don Valley.  Born during the Great War, Ken remembers little of the war itself, but he does recall the flu that followed it, as he lost his mother in that pandemic.  Growing up with a father and brothers, Ken recalls longing for his mother, and his jealousy of the other boys.  Ken and his family experienced the ups-and-downs of the 20s and 30s, and when World War Two came along, Ken was ready to do his part, and he set out to join the RCAF.  Poor health kept him out though, and Ken ended up in the army instead, where he was posted to the Intelligence Corps and sent to western Canada.  While there, Ken mapped out the countryside as the Al-Can highway was under construction, and he interviewed Japanese-Canadians bound for internment centres, a task that he regarded as unsavoury, one of the many situations that led him to distrust the political class, Mackenzie King in particular.  After time spent out west, where he also dealt with issues of the troops’ morale and taught courses, Ken spent the final year of the war in Ottawa in the Records Branch.  It was not his favourite work though, and with demobilization Ken returned to Toronto and work as a graphic artist.  He and his wife raised their two sons and made their contributions to postwar Canada, along with others of their generation.

April 19th, 2017

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Jack Lewis was born in Montreal in 1925, the youngest in a family where both parents were war veterans.  His father was a doctor, and his mother was a nurse, and they’d met in the battlefield hospital near Boulogne.  They spent much of the Great War in that one location, and Jack remembers that in his war, he passed through that area in about an hour.  Growing up in Montreal, Jack was insulated from the tough economic times of the 1930s, and he remembers a vibrant city where he and his friends enjoyed all that life offered.  With the coming of the war, Jack’s ambition was to enter the air force, but his eyesight denied him this opportunity, and he ended up in the army.  He was selected for an artillery unit, and circumstance saw his unit, part of Canada’s 3rd Division, selected for Operation Overlord, or D-Day.  Jack recalls the preliminary bombardment, and the tragedy of a downed Spitfire, before going ashore in his LST in the third wave.  Juno was taken by then, so he and his unit provided support to the infantry ahead of them, moving past Caen and Falaise, and then into Belgium and the Netherlands.  It was there that Jack’s war ended; he spent some time in the army of occupation before heading back to Canada, where he settled into the rhythm of postwar life.

Jack was interviewed for this project in his home in March 2017, by his daughter Suzie and Scott Masters.

March 31st, 2017

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Bill Tymchuk was born in Ukraine, when it was under Polish control; he went to school there  for 2 years and immigrated to Canada in 1930 (his father had settled down in Canada in 1928). His family was on the farm, and he started school and learned English quickly. Later his family went to Stayner, Ontario and bought a farm there. His family couldn’t afford to send him to high school, so he went to work at the age of 16.

Bill was raised in the shadow of the Great Depression, the rise of Nazis, and he later became a soldier fighting for Canada against Germany on the battlefields of Europe.  Bill was keen to join the Canadian army, and to fight in the war as a Canadian soldier in the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment. He is proud to be a Canadian, and he chose to fight for the country he called his home land. Once overseas Bill spent time in Britain, then he went across the channel, to fight in the Battle of Normandy.  From there he went on to liberate both Belgium and the Netherlands, where he remained in occupation after the war.  Before Canada, he returned to Britain, where he married – then it was back to Canada, where he became a bricklayer in Toronto’s postwar construction boom.

We met Bill at the Legion Branch 75 in October 2016, where he was interviewed by Lyndsay McCulloch, David Huang and Robert McHale.  In April 2018 Mr. Masters visited Bill again, this time with Rishi Sharma, who interviewed Bill for his Heroes of the Second World War project.

October 17th, 2016

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Reuven Blium survived the Holocaust in Lithuania, a country where as many as 95% of Jews were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators.  Reuven was born in 1930 in Kaunas, into a family of limited means.  Reuven’s father passed away when Reuven was only 3, and his mother had no alternative but to put him in an orphanage.  Reuven spent his early years there, and he was able to escape the Nazi onslaught due to the foresight of a teacher, Mr. Zundell.  He had been concerned about the war’s coming to Lithuania for several months, and had been preparing the students for evacuation.  When the Kaunas airfield was bombed, he took many of the boys to the train station, and they headed east into Russia.  Many of the younger children at the orphanage did not make it, and many were murdered by Lithuanian collaborators at the orphanage’s summer camp.  Reuven believes that he can give them a voice.  For those who did escape, a harrowing journey ensued, where the train was repeatedly attacked by the Luftwaffe.  On the way, Reuven was jostled about, but he arrived intact into deep Russia, in the area of Galich.  There he spent time in an another orphanage, which he describes in very Darwinian terms.  Reuven learned to survive there, and he was lucky to get out after a year, making his way to the Volga region, where another orphanage awaited.  Along the way, Reuven attended school, and as he got into his teens, he began to work in war industries.  With the war’s end, he made his way back to Lithuania, to reconstruct his life.  With the end of the war, he ended up in the Red Army.  Later he was able to make his way west, eventually settling in Canada.  We interviewed Reuven at his home in Toronto, over several visits in the summer and fall of 2016.

September 6th, 2016

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Mike Smith was born in the USSR, in the former republic of Belarus.  He grew up near Pinsk, in a traditional Jewish family.  When the war came to the USSR in 1941, he joined the Soviet Red Army, where he became a member of the Scouts’ Brigade.  Doing some of the most dangerous work behind enemy lines, he and his platoon fought in a succession of battles on the eastern front, all the way to Berlin.  Mike then was working in a DP camp, where he helped to smuggle Holocaust Survivors to destinations in the west.  Seeing his opportunity, he defected and went to the west himself, eventually making his way to Canada.  He initially settled in the north, working as a lumberjack in Kapuskasing, Ontario and in the mills in Rouyn and Sudbury.  Fate took him to Toronto, and a career in sales followed, as Mike established himself in the community.

August 29th, 2016

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Zbigniew Gondek served in the Polish Army during World War Two.  Born in Szemysyl in 1923, he and his family found themselves in the Soviet Zone of occupation after the 1939 Nazi Soviet Pact.  Zbigniew’s father, a police officer, was murdered, and Zbigniew and his mother were transported to Siberia, where they ended up in a work camp/village.  When Germany broke the pact and invaded the Soviet Union, many of the Poles were released, with Zbigniew and many young men taking advantage of the opportunity to join “Anders’ Army”, organized by the Polish General Anders.  With that his odyssey began, and Zbigniew moved through a succession of countries in the Middle East, including Iran, Iraq, Syria and Palestine.  After a year of training and transportation, Zbigniew and his fellow soldiers landed in Italy, bound for the battlefield.  Quickly they found themselves at Montecassino, where the battle was raging between the Germans and the Allied forces.  The Poles played a major role in that battle, earning great distinction for themselves.  Following Montecassino, Zbigniew and his platoon came under machine gun fire at Loretto, where Zbigniew bravely threw several grenades, so the column could move forward.  He was gravely wounded at that time, losing his left hand and sustaining serious wounds to his leg.  He was shipped back to Scotland, where he spent a year in hospital recovering and learning to walk again.  After marrying he and his wife made their way to Canada.
We met Zbigniew through the efforts of the Royal Canadian Legion, and Scott Masters visited and interviewed Zbigniew in July 2016.

August 24th, 2016

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Albert Mahon was born into a large family in south London, England in 1923. He grew up in a working class neighbourhood, where school was not a top priority.  Instead Albert went to work, and much of his childhood and early years were spent working a variety of jobs, as well as helping with his siblings. Once he was old enough to enlist, he was sent to a number of training camps in England, where he readied himself for the fight to follow.   He was sent to North Africa, where as an AA gunner he was involved in the defence of Bizerte harbour.  From there he went Italy to fight; he was stationed in a variety of locales, notably the Allied airfields in Foggia. He stayed in the British Army until 1946, finishing in Italy, where he was a guard in the war crimes trials that were underway. After returning to England Albert met his wife, and the two of them moved to Canada where they started their family. Albert became actively involved in the church, and participated actively in choir, where he made a reputation for himself.  In 2016, he was interviewed at Kensington Gardens Health Centre by Scott Masters.

August 3rd, 2016

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