Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – 20 August 2017

BVP2017 at Hôtel national des Invalides, Paris.
Credit: Katy Whitfield, Vimy Foundation 2017.

Today in Paris, the BVP2017 students toured the Musée the l’Armée at l’Hotel des Invalides and got to see Napoleon’s tomb and spectacular works by art masters on the theme of war. Next, they travelled to Versailles and spent the rest of the day exploring the magnificent palace and gardens and visited the very spot where the Paris Peace Conference was held and the Treaty of Versailles was signed.

(Please note: the students blog in their language of preference)

I sit here on the sidewalk of a busy street, watching the passage of strangers before me. Each one of them have a story, a life worth living. But they are not all strangers, because sitting beside me are the friends and people who are sharing the same experience, the same life-changing opportunity as me. And yet, though we have traveled together, have seen the same memorials and have shared in mourning, we have all been differently impacted by this experience. I myself will never be able to see life in quite the same lens again. My colours of perception have shifted and my horizon has broadened.

I realize now how little I have thought of these soldiers, those men who sacrificed freedom and safe homes so that our future might be a better place. But I fear I am not the only one; sometimes it seems like the whole world is forgetting the importance of remembrance, the importance of standing before a tombstone and paying our respects to those who sleep beneath our feet. For the First World War, our modern world has lost that crucial personal connection that ties lost soldiers to modern families. Today, we look at a grave, we attend a ceremony and, perhaps, we experience a habit; is it  something we do because the generations before us did the same? Do we see the stories, the faces buried beneath?

We must see them, we must look at the past through the eyes of those men, so that we may not forget and repeat the mistakes of the past.

Ariadne Douglas, Prince George, British Columbia

Today we went to Paris’ Hôtel national des Invalides & Musée de l’Armée. It was fascinating to see the tomb of Napoleon and the ways it differed from the other memorials that we had seen throughout the trip. We also had the opportunity to see exhibitions on the First and Second World Wars. These were an opportunity to view both wars from the French perspective, after our many visits to Commonwealth Memorials and Cemeteries. The exhibitions were presented in chronological order, allowing us to follow the progression of one war into the next. Being from a town in the UK that suffered from a number of attacks during the Blitz, it was interesting for me to be able to see am entire section on the Blitz during the Second World War.

-Lala Israfilova, Carshalton, Sutton, United Kingdom

Musée de l’Armée, Paris.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.
BVP 2017 in the Gardens of the Palace of Versailles.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.