Thursday, May 13, 2010
Over 2,000 students, accompanied by almost 500 teachers and chaperones, have been participating in official events marking the Liberation of the Netherlands and Victory in Europe. They’ve stood at attention in war cemeteries in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, met Dutch youth and lived experiences that are changing the way they see themselves and Canada.
All of them participated in the Liberation Parade held in Wageningen Wednesday, the last such parade on the May 5 Dutch Liberation Day that featured hundreds of Canadian and Allied veterans of the Second World War. Whether walking the parade route or watching it go past them from the side of the road, these high school students’ view on their own nation has changed.
“This has been a gift, an experience to see all the different cultures, places, food and people here,” Lakefield District Secondary School student James Pinn, 17, said Thursday while eating dinner with hundreds of other Canadians in Amsterdam. “It’s been most amazing. I love being a Canadian…
“It means a lot to see this country thank us— we can also thank them for the education we’ve been getting this week. I’m very proud to be a Canadian.”
The students are on several different tours through Europe this week organized by EF Educational Tours and led by retired Port Perry history teacher Dave Robinson.
Pinn referred to the Wageningen parade as the highlight of the tour, as the Canadian youth experienced the love of a Dutch nation that was occupied and starved in the Second World War until liberated by Allied forces. The majority of those Allies fought under a Canadian flag and thousands are buried in war cemeteries here these students have had a chance to visit.
At the ceremony at Bergen Op Zoom Thursday morning, hundreds of Canadian students sat among Dutch youth. While initially shy, by the time the agenda began many had already exchanged pins and realized that despite a language barrier, these youth were not so different with the exception of the Dutch appreciation for Canada’s role in fighting for the freedom they now enjoy.
Edmonton’s Jasper Place High School student Stephanie Palosky told QMI Agency prior to leaving that as a cadet, she wanted to commemorate these soldiers by seeing their final resting place. The last few days have given her the chance to do so and also be surprised by how she as a Canadian has been received.
“It’s slowly sinking in— I’m not completely, fully realizing yet that I’m here and seeing what I’ve seen here,” Palosky said. “Even in the toughest times, we never gave up… it’s made me feel really passionate about being a Canadian.”
She and the other Jasper Place students spent Thursday touring the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam, which also added to their understanding of the impact of liberation on some.
“Everything they went through to ensure their children were safe during the war… I couldn’t imagine doing that as a Canadian,” Danielle Brunelle said. “(On Wednesday), I was shocked a lot of the kids knew the Canadian anthem— they knew the words and how it goes. We heard it coming from the crowd at least twice.”
Written May 6.