When Mary Manko tried to tell her children that she had been interned at Spirit Lake internment camp in Quebec during the First World War, they did not believe her.
Records were destroyed and little had been written about the internment of Ukrainians, Hungarians, Serbians, Croatians, Germans and others who were branded as "enemy aliens," stripped of their civil liberties and placed in camps following the War Measures Act of Aug. 22, 1914.
Lubomyr Luciuk and the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association have been trying to change that. Manko, whose sister died there, sought only acknowledgement, and did not want an apology.
It has taken 25 years, says Luciuk, a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada in Ontario, but the recognition Manko longed for will soon be met by a commemorative ceremony that will take place across Canada, including much of Winnipeg, on the 100th anniversary of the act, Aug. 22, 2014.
On that day, 100 plaques will be unveiled simultaneously across the country.
Most of those sent to the camps were Ukrainians who had been encouraged to come to Canada in search of a better life, but were incarcerated when war broke out simply because they had formerly lived under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
"One hundred years ago there was a wave of repression that swept across the country from east to west and now, 100 years later, we will be replacing that with a wave of national memory from east to west," Luciuk said during a phone interview.
The first plaque will be unveiled in Amherst, N.S. with the final plaque to be unveiled in Nanaimo, B.C.
In Manitoba, up to 900 so called "enemy aliens" were housed at an internment camp in Brandon. A receiving station was located in Winnipeg.
Plaques will be unveiled at 23 sites in Manitoba on Aug. 22, including eight locations in north Winnipeg.
"Winnipeg was very quick to respond," says Luciuk. "There was very positive, supportive feedback."
St. Joseph’s Ukrainian Catholic Church at 250 Jefferson Ave. is one of the sites unveiling a plaque.
"I have had the good fortune to work with Lubomyr Luciuk in the early stages of uncovering this black chapter in Canadian History," says Pastor Bohdan Lukie of St. Joseph’s. "Happily, I am pleased to state that we were the first to accept this privilege."
Luciuk stresses how Manko always told him, "The campaign should be about memory, not money."
Manko was six when she was interned, one of about 8,579 people held in 24 camps across the country. Some 107 internees died there.
For more information visit www.uccla.ca (under CTO).
Cheryl Girard is a community correspondent for West Kildonan. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org