Vimy Pilgrimage Award Blog – 4 April 2019

Today in Belgium, our VPA 2019 recipients visited John McCrae’s Dressing Station where Emma and Theo read the well-known poem In Flanders Fields. Later, they toured the Passchendaele memorial and surrounding cemeteries. In the afternoon, they visited the In Flanders Fields Museum, located in the Cloth Hall, and climbed the 231 steps of the Cloth Tower to see the magnificent views across the Ypres region. (Please note: participants will blog in their language of preference).

Today was the first day on the program that we got the chance to set foot in cemeteries and on battlegrounds of the First World War. The emotions that I experienced while visiting these sites was something I never could have prepared for, and the atmosphere at each site was indescribable.  It was a beautiful sunny day and each location we visited had birds chirping which I thought really contributed to the environment in each site.

We visited the Maple Copse Cemetery where my great great uncle Bud is known to be buried. His grave was in a beautiful location that was especially moving as it was very secluded and felt very peaceful. We walked down a pathway before the cemetery could finally be seen, and the site had a very nice archway that we walked under to get to the graveyard.  Shortly before his death, my uncle Bud had written home asking his mother for a warm pair of knit socks- but he never lived to receive them.  I brought a pair of socks that I knit in memory of my Uncle Bud, and though it was a century too late- I was very honoured to be able to lay these socks at his grave.

Faith Emiry, Massey ON

 

Le premier cimetière où nous sommes allés était au poste de secours de John McCrae. Nous étions donc entourés d’anciens cimetières et de champs de bataille. Aujourd’hui, il n’y a que des fermes et des maisons, il n’y avait presqu’aucun bruit, seulement le bruit du chant des oiseaux et des automobiles. Tout était vraiment beau et paisible. Le soleil était haut et éclairait chaque tombe, il en avait beaucoup, comme s’il voulait les réchauffer. Je me rappelais des images de guerre et comment la guerre avait l’air d’être le contraire de beau et paisible. C’était impossible pour moi d’imaginer que la paix et le silence de cette petite place étaient autrefois dérangés. Les images de la guerre sont en noirs et blancs, mais ce cimetière était réel et en couleur, et c’était très difficile d’imaginer la guerre en couleur, et de réaliser qu’à l’endroit même où je lisais Au champ d’honneur, plusieurs personnes étaient mortes. Tout ce qui avait autour était des fermes et des maisons. Comme si la vie après la guerre et les générations suivantes avaient reconstruit autour de la guerre. Et c’est une des choses qui m’a surprise le plus; à quel point les traces de la guerre sont encore très fraîches en Belgique. Lorsque nous traversions en autobus les villes, ce n’était pas rare de voir des cimetières entre deux maisons ou entre deux fermes. J’ai trouvé ça vraiment intéressant, mais aussi plutôt intriguant. Ça m’a guidé à une question sur le roulement de vie des Belges. Comment font-ils pour ne pas succomber à la pression de l’éternelle dette de la Première Guerre mondiale, sans toutefois tomber dans l’ignorance du Souvenir?

Emma Roy, Ste-Sophie Québec

 

Today was a very moving and emotional first day. We visited many historic sites, including the Menin Gate. The Menin Gate includes the names of over 54 000 soldiers who died before August 16, 1917 and who have no known grave. This commemorative structure included so many names and is so vast that many within our group, including myself, became emotional. After having a group discussion, we then all broke up into smaller groups to discuss the significance of Menin Gate, as well as our thoughts on the day so far. This discussion was insightful and meaningful to me. The chaperon led the group discussion and, at one point, I was able to reflect on the significance of viewing historical sites in Belgium and how that is more effective and impactful than just reading about it. I began to reflect on the people of Belgium and how ingrained the First World War is in their culture. Truly, from someone walking on the street to a tourist guide in a museum, everyone in Belgium is informed of the First World War. Being immersed in this kind of environment makes learning and remembering the war much more meaningful. I cannot wait to see what the rest of this program has in store!

David Pugh, Brantford Ontario

 

Vimy Pilgrimage Award Blog – 3 April 2019

This morning, our VPA 2019 recipients arrived in Brussels and visited the Atonium. Later, they travelled to Messines on the Ypres Salient. After getting settled in, the recipients were introduced to the program and participated in some ice-breaker activities. Read more about what they are most looking forward to during the program.

(Please note: participants will blog in their mother tongue.)  

 

 

J’ai extrêmement hâte à la visite du cimetière britannique à Caix, car c’est là que mon arrière grand-oncle, Henri Plouffe, est enterré. J’ai aussi très hâte à tous les nouvelles interactions que je vais avoir avec mes co-étudiants.

Aidan Hupé, Whitehorse YK

 

I am extremely excited to visit the Courcellette Memorial and learn more about this battle which I have a connection to. I researched about a soldier who died at this battle, and it will be interesting to learn more about it, so I can understand the conditions he fought and died in.

David Pugh, Brantford ON

 

After carefully considering all of the amazing events planned for this pilgrimage, I would have to say that the most moving and life changing event would probably be visiting the cemetery. For me, the opportunity to see the actual location of the soldier I researched and developed a connection with will be very moving and inspirational.

Declan Sander, Lethbridge AB

 

It was an excellent experience to be initially introduced to all my fellow Vimy Pilgrims. The part of this experience that I am most excited for is to hear my fellow pilgrims read out their soldier tributes at the various battle fields in the coming days.

Eric Weidmann, Fort Saskatchewan AB

 

Je suis très heureuse parce qu’aujourd’hui, j’ai rencontré tout le monde. Je suis très excité car dans ces prochains jours, nous allons entendre les biographies des soldats créées par les participants du programme.

Brooke Glazier, North Vancouver BC

 

I am really looking forward to being at the Vimy Ridge memorial on its anniversary. Since I was young, I would always read and see pictures of it and always wanted to visit. It’s hard to believe that I will not only be there in a few days but on its anniversary!

Cassandra Gillen, Pointe-Claire QC

 

Although we were all extremely jet lagged, I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting Canadians from coast to coast today in Quebec, learning about our shared values as well as the ins and outs of our communities. This week, I look forward to connecting with young leaders across the country, continuing to learn about one another as well as the important history of the First World War through interactive visits and presentations.

David He, Burnaby BC

 

As a minority in Canada, the First World War never truly felt like my history. As I did more research with the Vimy Pilgrimage Program, however, I discovered a new truth. I am looking forward to further exploring the stories of Black Canadians in the First World War and discovering more of the ways that this story is mine too.

Keneisha Charles, Kelowna BC

 

I am very eager to make new friends and expand my knowledge of the First World War. I am looking forward to paying my respects to many Canadians who largely contributed to Canada’s war effort. This is truly an amazing opportunity, I hope to apply what I learn and experience to my future studies.

Gillian Huppee, Foam Lake SK

 

After my first day here, I am very excited for what is yet to come. With the experiences that I will gain from my time here, as well as the knowledge that I will soon attain about the First World War.

Elizabeth Gagné, Regina SK

 

Although I am very jet-lagged, I’m ever more grateful to all our chaperones and the Vimy Foundation for making this program possible. I look forward to exploring Canada’s First World War history first-hand, “on-the-field” at the Ypres Salient tomorrow! It will be such an eye-opening experience!

Joon Sohn, Surrey BC

 

I have had two flights, not enough sleep, and I am so tired but I know it’s all worth what we will be seeing this week. I can’t tell you one thing I’m looking forward to because there are so many things I can’t wait to see. I guess one important one to me besides Vimy is the Christmas day truce memorial. I learned about it in my elementary school and want to learn more about it from this program.

Andrew Poirier, York (Hamlet of) ON

 

Une des choses que j’ai vraiment hâte est d’apprendre sur le terrain, sur les champs de bataille. J’ai hâte de voir c’est quoi la sensation perçue lorsque le passé est aussi réel et présent autour de nous. J’ai aussi très hâte d’apprendre comment commémorer en groupe, comment jouer de concert avec un groupe d’étudiants qui devient de moins en moins inconnu sur un sujet aussi émouvant.

Emma Roy, Ste-Sophie QC

 

After spending weeks researching the lives of two selfless soldiers, I am excited to present their tributes to pay my respects. I also hope to learn more about Canada’s effort during the First World War and am eager to visit the historic sites that bring the nation’s history to life.

Navjot Khaira, Surrey BC

 

Ce sera un honneur d’avoir l’occasion de reconnaitre le sacrifice des soldats canadiens de la Grande Guerre. J’ai particulièrement hâte de visiter le Mémorial de Vimy, pour sa grande signification pour le Canada, et d’en apprendre plus sur les conditions de vie dans les tranchées. J’espère ressortir de cette expérience avec une vision plus claire de la Première Guerre mondiale et de ses effets sur notre société.

Rosalie Gendron, Lévis QC

 

I am very jet lagged and tired, but am already having an amazing experience. I am most looking forward to visit Vimy Ridge. Standing in the same places as Canadian soldiers did in war, but to do it in peacetime will be an incredible experience.

Katie Clyburne, Halifax NS

 

I hope to make lots of new friends on this journey as well as learn more on the history of the First World War. I have had a wonderful time so far as the people are great and the ice breaker games were lots of fun. I can’t wait to see what this week brings!

Stephanie Budden, Stephenville NL

 

It’s only our second day but it already feels like we’ve been here for so long! It’s my first time going to Europe so I’m very excited to travel and learn more about the First World War. I’m particularly excited to see the Vimy Memorial as many people have told me it is absolutely breathtaking.

Zachary Collins, Toronto ON

 

This experience has been great so far, especially meeting everyone and seeing some of the Belgian countryside. Already, I can tell the program is going to be incredible, and I look forward to learning more about Canada and the First World War.

Theo Thompson-Armstrong, Halifax NS

 

Although it is difficult to pick only one of the incredible things I am looking forward to this week, I am most excited to visit the grave of my Great Great Uncle Bud who died fighting nearby Ypres, Belgium.  Here I will be able to lay a pair of wool socks that he had written home asking for in 1915, but never lived to see.  Of course, I am also excited to continue sharing my passion for history with the other VPA delegates and chaperones!

Faith Emiry, Massey ON

 

 

 

 

 

Vimy Pilgrimage Award Blog – 2 April 2019

Our 2019 Vimy Pilgrimage Award recipients have left Canada for a week-long immersive educational program in Belgium and France to study Canada’s First World War effort. Follow along as they blog about their experience! (Please note: participants will blog in their mother tongue.) Thank you to Scotiabank and Air Canada for all their support!

Today’s first blogs come from our chaperones:

Everyone has made it to Montreal and we are ready to ship off to Brussels. I’m looking forward to meeting our participants and getting the 2019 VPA started. We have a great itinerary lined up and a fantastic group of students. Having the opportunity to learn about the First World War while experiencing the sites and battlefields is a tremendous opportunity for the students to immerse themselves in the stories that marked this critical period in not only Canadian, but also world history.

-Sean Graham

The VPA 2019 program is underway! I’m looking forward to what the next week has in store – getting to know an incredible group of young Canadians, working together with my fellow chaperones who share a passion for history and teaching, and visiting important First World War sites on the Western Front. The students are about to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to immerse themselves in history and connect to the past through experiential learning!

-Sara Karn

The day is finally here! After much anticipation, we have all made it to Montreal and are about to head overseas. With an exciting itinerary ahead of us, I look forward to visiting and experiencing the important sites and battlefields from the First World War with a phenomenal group of students from across Canada. Stay tuned!

-Lindsay Fraser-Noel

Since the moment they learned that they have been selected as recipients of the 2019 Vimy Pilgrimage Award, this group of students has been busy preparing for the program by completing academic readings, organizing group presentation materials, and by preparing a presentation about an individual who is buried or commemorated overseas. Over the past few months, each one of these students has already contributed something unique to this group with their work ethic and dedication to learning Canada’s military past.

By leading on-site lectures, asking thought provoking questions, and sharing in respectful historical debates, myself and my fellow chaperones will guide these young scholars across the landscapes, battlefields, memorials, and museums in Belgium and France. I look forward to marking the 102nd anniversary of the Battle for Vimy Ridge alongside the 2019 VPA recipients.

-Katrina Pasierbek

C’est avec joie que je prends part au programme du Prix du pèlerinage Vimy 2019 en tant que nouvel accompagnateur. Tout comme nos jeunes participants, je découvrirai et explorerai pour la première fois les champs de bataille, les musées et les lieux de mémoire en Belgique et en France. J’ai bien hâte de discuter avec eux, et avec les autres accompagnateurs, des usages que nous faisons du passé et des récits que nous partageons sur la participation du Canada à la Première Guerre mondiale. Nul doute que cette opportunité sera enrichissante pour tous!

– Benoit Longval