Winnipeggers mark anniversary of Nazi Germany’s surrender

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Oksana Bondarchuk couldn’t help but shed a tear on Sunday at Vimy Ridge Park.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/05/2016 (2293 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Oksana Bondarchuk couldn’t help but shed a tear on Sunday at Vimy Ridge Park.

Bondarchuk, the president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress-Manitoba Provincial Council, recounted the story of her mother, who was taken by the Nazis and forced to dig ditches for the Germans’ war effort on the front lines.

Bondarchuk, fighting back her tears, said everyone must acknowledge the horrors of the Second World War.

“My mother was 16 when (the Nazis) literally came to her village, put up a wired fence and rounded up everyone in a certain age group,” Bondarchuk said. “My grandmother was able to run to her home, grab a blanket and give it to my mother. That was it.”

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Oleksiy Zhmendak holds a Ukrainian flag as members from the Ukrainian, Jewish, Russian-speaking and Polish communities gather in Vimy Ridge Park for a day of remembrance and reconciliation for those tho died during the Second World War.

It’s been 71 years since the end of the Second World War in Europe, and more than 50 people gathered at Vimy Ridge Park to mark the occasion Sunday during the second annual Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation organized by Denys Volkov.

Volkov, who was born in eastern Ukraine, started the event last year to mark the 70th anniversary of the fall of the Third Reich. He looked at the various events around the country and felt there wasn’t enough inclusivity.

“We invited representatives from the Jewish, Ukrainian and Polish communities,” said Volkov, who has Ukrainian, Russian and Jewish blood running through him. “We were very please that the federal and provincial governments worked with us as well.

“World War II had a profound impact on countries around the world. So many millions of lives were lost. My great-grandfather died, he was taken away from my great-grandmother and never heard from again, so for me, this is personal. For me, I’d like to continue to remember them.”

Shelley Faintuch of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg said her grandfather was tortured in a public place after failing to hand over leather goods to the Nazis.

“My connection to the Holocaust is very close and very tight,” she said. “My father was incarcerated in Poland but escaped and ran to the Soviet Union where he eventually met my mother. They were able to get to Canada in the fall of 1948.

“The Jewish community consecrates a week every year to remember the Holocaust. It’s important to remember. In the Jewish tradition, we remember annually the date of the death of someone close to us. These ceremonies form our way of remembering those who didn’t have members of their family to remember their death. It’s very important in Jewish life.”

For Faintuch, forgetting those who died is like bestowing a second death upon them.

“If we forget those who perished in order to keep our world a democratic place, they will have died a second death — the physical death they died and they will have also died the death of lack of memory,” she said.

Newly elected Progressive Conservative MLA Jon Reyes was also on hand for the ceremony. A veteran himself, Reyes is the special envoy for Manitoba Military Affairs. His friend, Master Cpl. Christian Duchesne, was killed by a roadside bomb while serving in Afghanistan in 2007, an event he said shook him to his core.

“He had two kids just like me, he was married,” Reyes said. “We have to remember that we had young men, fathers, sons, uncles and brothers that served very young, and to lose them to wars and for us to have the freedoms we do, we have to remember them.”

 

scott.billeck@freepress.mb.ca

 

History

Updated on Sunday, May 8, 2016 7:59 PM CDT: Photo caption corrected, headline tweaked.

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