Ron Anderson is Crestwood student Andrew Gdanski’s grandfather. In October 2014 he sat down with Andrew and shared stories of his formative years in Toronto, describing how the city has changed so much in a short period of time. Mr. Anderson especially recalled the power of Hurricane Hazel, which tore through southern Ontario in the 1950s. He also remembered the Trudeau years, including topics as varied as war and hockey.
This interview is an important reminder of the family-based origins of our Oral History Project.
Marion Brouse is Blair Stutz’s grandmother. Blair was in Mr. Masters’ History 10 class in 2008-9; Blair interviewed her grandmother about her experiences growing up in wartime England.
David Campbell is Corey Campbell’s grandfather. He was interviewed for this project in early 2008. During the war David worked in the aircraft industry; as an essential employee he was therefore exempted from military service, though he did try to enlist on two occasions. On the second try he ended up being injured in training, leading to discharge, so he ended up going back into aircraft production. His life after the war is very much the story of his ambition and success in the world of Canadian business and industry; he rose through the ranks of Northern Electric and eventually started up his own record store, from which he diversified into many other areas, such as appliances and even the stock market. Along the way he enjoyed much success and was even awarded the Order of Canada.
Mark Charness was born in Montreal in 1923. He joined the RCAF in 1942, and soon was designated as a flight navigator. In 1944 he was transferred to the RAF, where he ended up as a member of the Pathfinders. He flew in a Lancaster, where he joined up with an Australian crew. When the war was over, he returned to Canada and started up his own business.
Mark was first interviewed for this project by his grand-daughter Katherine, when she was in Mr. Scott’s CHC2D class. In 2012 he was interviewed again by Katherine, this time with Michael Lawee and Zach Brown.
Beatrice Chu was born in the end of December, 1930 in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Before the war, she was middle class. She lived with her many sisters and brothers and her parents; she was the oldest sibling and had 9 younger siblings that she helped to care for. The Japanese came to attack Hong Kong when Beatrice was 11 years old. She and her family fled to a rural mountainous area and stayed there throughout the war. Therefore, Beatrice was not very exposed to the dangers of war, but she did recall many of the very difficult conditions that the family endured.
Beatrice presently lives in Hong Kong and she shared her story with her granddaughter Kelly Chu, who is in Mr. Masters’ Grade 10 History class here at Crestwood. Kelly took advantage of the global village in which we now live and interviewed her grandmother via Facetime.
Rosa Cohen-Rubin is the grandmother of Crestwood student Sy Greenberg. She is a Holocaust survivor who was a hidden child during the war, along with her sister. Her parents Felix and Blima were able to save their daughters by leaving them in the care of a convent. Sy interviewed his grandmother about her experiences in March 2009, while taking Mr. Masters’ CHC2D class.
Lynne Conner was born on October 1st 1928, in the Cape Verde Islands. She had an older brother, Peter. Her parents are Adela and Richard Wharton. Her mother was Spanish, from the Canary Islands and her father was English. When she was eight, she was the last of her family to move to England, to escape the Spanish Civil War. She then moved to Southampton where she was looked after by a friend of her father, who eventually became her step-mother, Barbary. When the war broke out, her father, who was a senior British intelligence officer had to go to war, so he moved her to live with another family. As the war continued she was moved around a lot. She was placed in various lodgings, until she was old enough to go to Sherborne Girls school, an elite boarding school. After her schooling she went to Switzerland and worked as a translator for the Red Cross. She worked in a number of European countries. When she was working for the Spanish Embassy in England she moved to Venezuela to live with her brother for a little while. In Venezuela, she met her future husband, Julian Conner. After a few years they got married and eventually moved to his homeland, St. Maarten. Lynne sat down in 2016 to share her memories of her war time life with her granddaughter, Elizabeth Keane.
Barbara Cooper was born in 1930 and was nine years old when World War II began. Mrs. Cooper moved to Canada in 1954, after her marriage with Lou Cooper. Barbara lived in a town in England called Yorkshire and never experienced any difficult situations during the war. Lou Cooper was born in 1929 and was 10 when World War II began. Mr. Cooper came to Canada in 1954 with his newly wed Barbara Cooper. Lou lived in Yorkshire as well, yet during the war his father was away for six years which was a difficult time for their family.
They are the grandparents of Crestwood student Hailey Friedrichsen and were interviewed by her and Jenny Wilson in March 2011.
Raffaella DeSimone was born in Italy in 1943, in the midst of the Second World War. As her parents were farmers, and there was no work, the family relocated to France, and then to Canada. The family arrived in Halifax, at Pier 21, and they began to adapt to their new country, reaching out to family that had arrived earlier. Raffaella’s memories of her early days were mostly positive ones, as she and her family were welcomed into and prepared to make their mark in Canada’s postwar history.
Raffaella was interviewed by her grandson, Crestwood student Michael DiBattista, in December 2015.
Jean-Marie Doan (nee Shoulds) was born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia two months after the Great Stock Market Crash of 1929. She shares her story of growing up during the Great Depression, as well as her experiences on the home front during World War 2. With two uncles fighting in the war, Jean was extremely aware of the global events unfolding around her. Rationing, media reports, and being located on the east coast, not far from Halifax’s Bedford Basin, made the war an inescapable daily reality for Jean and her family. In addition to her wartime experience, Jean discusses one of her passions- automobiles- and the “Golden Age of the Automobile” that followed the end of the war. Jean was interviewed at her home in the winter of 2013 by her grandson Hunter Kell.
Joanna Eaves was born on February 17, 1943. She grew up with her mother, Nora, her sister, Liz, and her brother, Charles. Unfortunately for most of her toddler years, her father, John, was off fighting in World War II. John’s position in the war was a Maratha Light Infantry of the Indian army. During the war, Joanna’s father was secretly captured and the family heard nothing about it. She sat down with her granddaughter Emily in February of 2015 to discuss her family’s story.
George Eichler was born in 1943 in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. His mom grew up in Bratislava and his dad grew up in Eastern Slovakia. George grew up with a lot of anti-Semitism but he still attended school and had a decent childhood. George has 2 brothers, Gabriel and Viktor, and also has 1 sister, Naomi. George and his three siblings decided to leave Bratislava in 1968. George and his brother Viktor left from Bratislava and picked up their brother Gabriel while he was at university. They also met up with their sister and her boyfriend in Canada after they escaped from a Cuban plane that stopped to refuel in Canada. George and his siblings arrived in Hamilton, Ontario and lived in a bus stop for a few days. George now lives in Toronto, Ontario. George met his wife at a dinner but they didn’t talk much since she only spoke Hungarian. After a few years of learning English they decided to get married, and to build a life in postwar Canada.
George was interviewed for this project by his grandson Cole.
Moshe was born in Fez, Morocco on July 25th, 1938. He was born right when WWII was starting, so it did not affect him as much as people older than him. His large Jewish family was very lucky living in Fez because that area was not under Nazi control, and he was safe from the Holocaust. Moshe then joined the French Army in Morocco. His battalion went to Southern Morocco to pacify the area, so Morocco could be a unified country. The people that he helped were very grateful and one even gave him his most prized possession. His battalion was mostly Arab so he was harassed daily. He escaped and fled to Israel where he met his wife. They had 3 kids and then decided that they would go to Canada for a better life. The country of Israel only let them bring $70.
Moshe was interviewed for this project by his grandson Jonah in early 2009.
Edward Fisch grew up in wartime Hungary. Grandparent of Crestwood student Sidra Fisch, he learned to survive against the backdrop of Hungarian fascism and the 1944 occupation of Hungary by Nazi Germany, including time spent in the ghettoes and camps. Edward visited us for this interview in October 2013, where he was interviewed by Sidra and her friends Stephanie, Isabelle, Martina, and Emma.
Before the war, Henry Gancman was living a comfortable life in a middle class Polish family. He had two sisters and a brother, was learning to be a carpenter, and he enjoyed playing soccer. All that came to a quick end after Sept. 1939 – like so many Polish Jews, Henry dealt with the restrictions that the new life imposed. That meant wearing the yellow star, life in the ghetto, and eventually deportation to the camps and slave labour.
Henry was interviewed for this project by his grandson Blair Gwartzman in March 2013.
Norm Gardner is a former politician and administrator in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He has served in various positions in the North York, Metro Toronto, and City of Toronto governments, most recently as the chair of the Toronto Police Services Board from 1998-2002. In January of 2016, he sat down with his granddaughter, Crestwood student Georgia Gardner, to share his experiences growing up in Toronto, his unique perspective as a politician during an important time in Toronto’s history, and how that perspective has shaped his views of current events- both in the city, and internationally.
When World War Two began in 1939 Abe and his family went to Warsaw for just two weeks as Germans took it over and then to Bialystok. After Abe and family left Bialystok they went to Lida. From there Zaida and his family spent the rest of the war in Siberia, safe from the Nazis. During the war years Zaida worked hard at a logging camp. It was hard work but he enjoyed the beautiful outdoors and the most important thing was that he and his family were safe. After the war they went to Belgium and in 1957, Abe and his family traveled by ship to Canada.
Abe was interviewed by his grandson Jon for the Crestwood Oral History Project.
Sorrell Gwartzman’s father Harold Rubin fought in the Canadian forces during WW2, and this interview is a record both of her experiences growing up in Canada during the war, and of his actions overseas. While her father enlisted and went on to be a member of the RCAF’s Precision Squad who was awarded the DFC, Sorrell remembers dealing with rationing, air raids, and patriotic sacrifice. She also remembers her father’s letters home and seeing him in uniform on his return. This interview, done by Crestwood student Howard Rosenblat in early 2008, offers a good look at both first- and secondhand memories of the war years.
Judith Hamburger was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia on January 12th1935. She was split from her mother around 1942 and spent her time in living with her grandparents, in ghettoescamps and in hiding until April 1st1945. In 1945 she was re-united with her mother, who was released from the worst of the Concentration Camps, Auschwitz. In 1946, together with her mother they moved to England to join her father. In 1955, her whole family immigrated to Santiago, Chile, where her son was born. In 1971, they all left Chile for Toronto, Canada.
Judith was interviewed for this project by her gradson, Yannick.
Marvin Hertzman was a child in wartime Toronto. In this interview, conducted by his grandson Russell Silver in early 2008, he shares his memories of the time, including the air raid wardens, the rationing, the entry of the U.S., and of the economic conditions Canadians confronted after the war.
Yitzchak Kalev was born in Jerusalem, Palestine. He has lived there for all his life. During WW2 he served in the Royal Navy on a minesweeper. He remembers seeing the German paratroopers land in Crete and the bombers on D-Day. He also fought in the IDF for many years in the War for Independence. He now lives in Jerusalem Israel and has a wife, son, and grandchildren. Yitzchak was interviewed for this project by his great-nephew Indigo Goldfarb-Lewis, who visited him in Jerusalem in December 2015.
Born in the 1920’s in the city of Sighet, Romania to a family of seven children, my grandmother, Adrian Karp was a member of a large, comfortable, religious home. In 1939 Romania was taken over by Hungarian forces. Soon normal life became impossible. Under the command of Germany, these forces began to treat their Jewish citizens as slave laborers. During the war she and her family were sent to ghettoes and then to the camps, where many of them perished.
Thanks to an UNRRA social worker, all three surviving sisters were encouraged and sent as immigrants to Canada where they worked and lived and met and married fine men and thankfully had children and once again were able to enjoy large, warm and caring families.
Adrian Karp was interviewed by her grand-daughter Stephanie early in 2009.
Joseph Konarek escaped across the Iron Curtain into democratic Western Europe in order to come to Canada. His story is an interesting one, and is a vital part of the Konarek family history. The story of my his escape across the Iron Curtain demonstrates the risks people are willing to take to escape either physical or ideological oppression.
Joseph was interviewed for this project by his grandson Evan, who completed this project in History 12 in 2007-8.
Sumiko Koshida is the grandmother of Crestwood student Justin Yeung. Sumiko grew up in Tashme, one of the WW2 relocation centres into which Japanese-Canadians were forced early in WW2. When the war concluded, she and her family were sent back to Japan. Here she shares her childhood memories of the family’s experiences.
Joyce joined the Royal Canadian Air Force Woman’s Division. She requested to go to England because she had never traveled the world and this was an once in a lifetime opportunity. She was trained at Rockcliffe to become a stenographer in the Orderly Room. She went over to England on Aug. 14, 1942. Her air force number was W306351. Her time was spent in Linton-on-Ouse which is close to York. Then she became a corporal for a year before she was brought back home to her family in Montreal.
Joyce was interviewed by her grandson Evan Kossman in early 2009.
Helene Kravitz is Crestwood student Sy Greenberg’s great-aunt. She was a hidden child in Belgium during the Second World War, along with her sister Rosa, whose story can also be found in this project. She was interviewed by Sy in the fall of 2009.
Athena Lampracos was born on the 18th of October 1938. She was raised in a small village with a large family, she grew up with five sibling, her two parents, and her grandparents. Athena never experienced a normal child hood because she was raised into the war, and fear. The Germans invaded and took away childhood from children all over Greece.
Athena grew up in this village occupied by Germans; wherever she went as a child war followed as it was every where. She grew up in fear of the Germans, and she often had to flee up to bunkers in the mountains when the Germans would bomb villages.
When the war was over, Athena had enough of her basic necessities to restart her life in Greece. She worked very hard to recreate her life in Greece yet it was still difficult. Athena would later move to Canada to start again.
Athena was interviewed for this project in early 2014, by her grandson Matthew Gionnas.
Santino Lettieri was born in Calabria, Italy in the middle of World War 2. Like many Italians of this time period, his family sought a better life in North America after the conclusion of the war, settling in Chicago. In the early 1960s, Santino and a group of high school friends enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, and Santino served in 1965 and 1966 in the Vietnam War. In 2014, he shared his experiences of training, combat and readjustment to civilian life with his niece, Grade 10 student Loren Lettieri.
Mr. Su Jianye and Mrs. Ma Jiexian have lived through some of the most monumental changes in 20th century history. As residents of Mao’s China, they were firsthand witnesses to the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and the economic reform that has transformed communist China into one of the central nations in the 21st century’s economy.
Crestwood Grade 10 student Guanghao Chen, along with classmate Tom Li, conducted an online interview with his grandparents in 2014. The result is a firsthand glimpse into the birth of a new superpower. Through painstaking work, Guanghao and Tom have translated and subtitled their interview to allow an English speaking audience a glimpse into China in the second half of the 20th century.
Noelle Meyer was born in Paris to parents of Ukrainian Jewish ancestry. She was 2 and a half years old at the time of the Nazi occupation of France, and for one and a half years, until ‘44, we do not know who took care of her. She was then taken in by the orphanage, OPEJ (Oeuvres Pour les Enfants Juifs) and put into a host family in Villepinte, a family named Lepage. At the end of ‘44, she was transferred out of this family into a new orphanage for Jewish children in Rueil Malmaison. In 2016, she sat down with her granddaughter Arielle to share her family history, much of it recreated through painstaking research by Noelle.
Ruth Miller is Daniel Troster’s grandmother. Her parents emigrated to Canada from Europe in the World War One period, and Ruth grew up against the backdrop of the Great Depression in Montreal. Here she shares her memories of what Canada was like in the early 20th century.
Gerald Morello was a man born to humble roots, in an Italian neighbourhood of Toronto. He did not enlist in the army during World War II, which gave him a unique perspective on the events happening in the Home Front, and the attitudes of the Canadian people during this time period. His parents were recent immigrants, and he was the one of the three children to be born in Canada. Gerald Morello dove into a variety of positions during the war, which varied from working at the Toronto Star, to working in a munitions factory.
He is the grandfather of Crestwood student Mark Leonard, who interviewed him for this project.
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.
Asta Piil was born in 1935 in northern Estonia. When the Soviet occupation began, she and her family were able to relocate to Sweden. Eventually they made their way to Canada, on board the British ship The Walnut. After an arduous journey, they arrived at Pier 21, in Halifax. Asta and her family came to Toronto, where Asta worked on Spadina Avenue, and made her new life.
Asta was interviewed for this project in early 2014 by her grandson Matti.
Peter Rival was born in Bratislava in modern day Slovakia in the earliest days of World War Two. For almost 5 years, Peter and his mother lived as Roman Catholics, hiding their true identity from the Nazis. In April of 1944, he was sent to Theresienstadt Concentration Camp. While Peter’s extremely young age at the time prevented him from sharing many specific details regarding his time in the camp, he is able to vividly describe his experiences after, including immigrating- first to Israel and then to Canada. His story is a clear example of the hardships and difficulties that survivors endured in the years after the war. Peter sat down with his grandson, Owen Rival, to share his story in 2014.
Paul Rosner was born into a Jewish family in Bucharest, Romania in the interwar years. His family was leading a comfortable life, something that changed with the arrival of the Nazis and WW2. As the discrimination and violence escalated, Paul’s parents made the decision to leave Romania. Two efforts to go to France were unsuccessful, so the family made the decision to go to Palestine. There they participated in the creation of Israel, also a difficult experience. Eventually the Rosners made it to Canada, where Paul continued to both work and study, and to build a life for his own family.
Paul was interviewed for this project by his grandson Jordan in 2007; this is one of the first projects completed for Crestwood’s Oral History Project.
Rino Sacilotto is Matt Crocker’s grandfather. He was born in small town in northeast Italy called Chions on October 6th, 1927. He was the youngest of six brothers and three sisters. His father, Atillio, was a farmer and the whole family worked on the farm. Rino lived in Chions until he was 24 years old, having experienced the Second World War from ages 12 to 18. His first immigration experience was to Aubonne, Switzerland, where he worked on a vineyard from 1951 to 1953. In 1954, Rino immigrated from Italy to Canada. He came by a ship called the Homeland and arrived at Pier 21, Halifax, Nova Scotia . His first working experience was in Lynne Lake, Manitoba, working on repairs to the Canadian National Railway . He worked on the railway for 1 year. In 1955 he moved to Toronto, Ontario and worked as a bricklayer for 37 years. He is now 83 years old, retired and lives with his wife, Rita Sacilotto in Toronto, Ontario. Rino was interviewed for this project in March 2011 by his grandson, Crestwood student Matt Crocker.
Paul Seiler is the grandfather of Crestwood student Ben Sharer, who interviewed him for this project in February 2014. Paul grew up against the backdrop of wartime Romania, where he and his family were fortunate to survive the Holocaust. Paul remembers wearing the yellow star, and the deportation of many family and friends to the labour camps. He personally survived a harrowing train journey where he and his family were able to survive a German attack. Following the war Paul stayed in Romania for a time, later making his way to Israel, where he fought in the Yom Kippur War. He and his wife later came to Canada, where their children and grandchildren live.
Huguette Sellen nee Musso grew up in the Lorraine region of France. When the war began, her father would not collaborate, and as a result she and her family were deported to Silesia and forced to work in German-run factories. They were kept in the camps under very difficult conditions, and they were on the verge of starvation. Huguette was about 6 and 7 years old in the camps, but her grand-mother got the permission from the person in charge ofthe camp to withdraw Huguette from the camp and bring her back to Metz, in Lorraine, where she lived. Once they knew their young daughter was gone and safe, her parents could then escape from the camp separately, for more chance to make it and had to cross all of Germany to go back to Metz, where they got their daughter back and made it through the nearby border to find themselves in occupied France. From there, they mainly hid in the Alps, but at one point near the end of the war, they were able to go back near Metz in Pont-à-Mousson on the French part of the border, where they got bombed by the Americans who were trying to make an opening in the border to advance and liberate Metz and Alsace-Loraine before continuing towards Berlin.
Huguette is the grandmother of Crestwood student Noah Sellen, who did this interview in 2008. The interview was conducted in French.
Roshan Shafai was born in Tehran, Iran, on September 21 1964. She was the daughter of Habib Shafai and Noshin Shafai, who in the next 2 years would have 2 sons, making her the eldest child and the only daughter in the family. Her father worked with the Shah’s government and her mother stayed at home, as was the norm in Iran. She was educated to a high school level in Iran before the revolution began. She was an active member, even to the point of being arrested. After the fall of the Shah’s government her family stayed in Iran for a time before fleeing into neighboring Turkey. They then moved to the US and began a life, with Roshan entering Purdue University where she received a Bachelors Degree along with a Masters in Bio Chemistry. She also met Arash Sarshar, whom she married a year later. The couple then moved to Toronto Canada where they attended UFT. After getting a medical degree she began to build a life there with her husband. She is currently 50 years old and living in Toronto. She sat down in 2015, with her son Navid Sharshar to share her story.
Chava Sloma was born in Otwock, Poland in 1925. Though she recalled incidents of anti-Semitism, she said her prewar life was for the most part good. All that changed dramatically in September 1939 though; the family initially fled to Warsaw, but as the German army advanced, the decision was made to separate, and Chava and her sister headed for the Russian border. After being smuggled across the border, Chava and her sister Frania were shipped to Siberia, where they spent most of the war, working in the gulags deep in the wilderness. While conditions were rough, Chava remembered the kindness of a few people who kept her going, through disease and deprivation. When the war came to an end, she made her way back to Poland, to discover that her family had been murdered in the gas chambers of Treblinka. Chava found the will to go on, and she married and began a family, soonafter heading to Canada, where she arrived at Pier 21.
Chava visited Crestwood in February 2016, where four generations of the Lerner family came together one afternoon to listen to and to document her story, and to become witnesses to their own family history in this difficult period of history.
Esther Steiman immigrated to Canada from Poland in 1935- a move that would forever alter her life and the life of her family. Arriving in Toronto, Esther and her family experienced many of the traditional hardships of the immigrant experience. Estherís story also gives a glimpse as to what it was like to learn about the Holocaust as a Polish Jew living in Canada. While Esther and her immediate family escaped Poland before it was too late, she recounts the stories of other family members who were not as lucky.
Esther discussed her experience with her granddaughter, Sydney in 2014.
Private William Stewart served as a “bat man”, or officer’s aide, with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (British) during World War 1. Crestwood Grade 9 student Katie Stewart sat down with her father, Alan Stewart, to learn more about her great-grandfather’s wartime experience.
Pte. Stewart, like many soldiers of his generation, was reluctant to talk about his wartime service. Additionally, Alan was a young boy when lived with his grandfather during the final years of his life. That said, Alan is able to offer a glimpse into his grandfather’s experience, and also shares and some of the mementos and medals that have been family heirlooms.
While no veterans remain from the Great War, Katie’s interview shows the enduring legacy and impact of service during the war on families throughout Canada. The video also shows the importance of recording and documenting the firsthand stories of past before they disappear. As Katie wrote in her companion essay to the interview, “a textbook gives you the overall story, but the real life stories give you the details that no one can possibly learn from pages of notes taken…because you learn detail, what really happened and how it felt to be there.”
William Stewart was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1944. In 1952, William and his family left Northern Ireland to avoid the growing unrest associated with “The Troubles”. William’s interview discusses his early life in Ireland, his journey to Canada on the Georgic, and his family’s resettlement in Winnipeg. He contrasts his schooling in a Christian Brothers school in Ireland with the Catholic education he received in Canada, as well as discusses his overall experience adjusting to his new life in Winnipeg, where his parents ran a boarding house. In 2014, William sat down with his grandson John Mainprize and classmate Sam Moran to share his story.
Zin Svirsky is the grandfather of Crestwood student Jake Elin. Zin Svirsky lived in the Soviet Union for 40 years, from 1935 to 1975. Through events such as World War Two, the Cold War and Stalin’s reign, Zin went from growing up in a poor area of the Ukraine to getting an education and becoming one of the most respected and successful Jewish men in all of Moldova. Zin’s life in the Soviet Union shows the importance of oral history. His firsthand accounts of the poverty in the Soviet Union, World War Two, the Soviet university experience, anti-Semitism, and his time working in the Soviet Union are as accurate as can be possible. These experiences have not been tainted by a third party or romanticized. This was the real Soviet experience of the era.
Hatsuna Tagaki is the grandmother of Crestwood student Marina Morris. Marina interviewed her in September 2013, when Hatsuna was visiting Toronto from Japan. Hatsuno was born against the backdrop of World War Two, and she grew up during the difficult postwar years. Hatsuno shares here her memories of family and Japan’s changing culture in the years after the war.
Flora Temou was born in Statitsa, Greece in 1936. She witnessed first hand the civil war that spread through Greece in the aftermath of World War 2. She describes the impact of witnessing the combat with her region, and her harrowing evacuation to Poland, along with other local children. In her interview, she describes the emotional pain of being separated from her family, and the sadness surrounding her father’s disappearance during the conflict. Flora’s story concludes with her journey to Canada- arriving as a refugee as a 21-year old woman in 1957.
Flora shared her story in 2014 with her grandson, Crestwood student James Moskowski.
Penny Vasilopolous Haramis was born on June 20, 1940 in a small village in the province of Arcadia Greece. The village is called Colina which is 40km away from the town of Tripoli. She is the youngest of 2 other siblings. She attended school after the Germans left and remembers feeling more safe walking to school each day. Since she was born in 1940, she was very young when the Germans came. She mainly gets her memories from friends, and her parents, they told her mostly everything she knows about the war.
George Vasilopolous was born on October 23,1939 in a small village, also in the province of Arcadia Greece. The village is called Perivolia. It is in the southwestern part of Arcadia, Greece. He is an only child and spent most of his early childhood playing with his friends in the village. He had many farm animals and attended school after the Germans left Greece.
George and Penny are Crestwood grandparents who shared their stories with their grandson Austen Maras in February 2017. Their stories encompass their early years in Greece, both during World War Two and the subsequent Greek Civil War, as well as their emigration paths to Canada and their contributions to Canada in the postwar era.
Sophie Vermes was born into a successful middle-class family in Mezocsat, Hungary. Although her father died in 1938, she describes her childhood as comfortable and filled with interactions with non-Jewish residents of her town. In March of 1944, her life was thrown into disarray by the Nazi-occupation of Hungary.
In 2014, Sophie sat down with Grade 9 student Matthew Hirshberg to discuss her journey through the ghetto, Auschwitz, Plaszow and Augsburg concentration camps. Her story concludes with her escaping from Communist-occupied Hungary, and starting her life over with her husband in Canada.
John Walker was young when the war broke out. When he was eligible to enlist, he did so with the 7th Armoured Division, a.k.a. the Desert Rats, a renowned tank regiment of World War II. The War took him all over Europe, from Italy to Holland. By D-Day, he was a tank commander, arriving at the beaches only a few days after the initial attack. After Germany’s defeat, he toured Europe as an army athlete, eventually returning home several months later. In 1985 he immigrated to Sarnia, Ontario, where he has lived ever since.
Only a small girl, Renata Meilleur remembers very little of the War. That which she does remember left her with life-long emotional scarring. Holland saw some of the worst of the war. When not foraging for scraps of food, the people of Holland were constantly being bombed and raided. It took years of recuperation to get back on its feet. My grandmother, as well as her father and mother barely escaped the War, nearly dying of starvation. 12 years after the War she and her family immigrated to Canada.
Wang Rui Lin is a member of Crestwood student David Huang’s extended family. While home in China during the summer of 2017, David had the occasion to interview him about his memories of the War of Japanese Aggression, as well as the time of China’s Civil War. Mr. Wang recalled intense memories of his own family’s struggle, including his own brother’s execution at the hands of collaborators. He spoke of his family’s desire to have the family martyr remembered, as well as their experiences in tunnel warfare against the Japanese invaders.
We thank David and his family for adding to the international dimension of Crestwood’s Oral History Project.
Donald Williams is Olivia Kassardjians’s grandfather. Olivia was in Mr. Masters’ class in 2008-9; she interviewed her grandfather about his experiences growing up in wartime Jamaica and about his life after emigrating to Canada.