My grandpa (Gido) fought in the Second World War. I think about him often, but he’s especially in my thoughts in November. Remembrance Day is November 11th.
My grandpa didn’t talk about the war. In fact, he didn’t talk much at all. He said it was because my Grandma (Baba) never stopped talking so he never got a chance to say anything. Mostly he’d take me places and show me how to do work around the farm. The few conversations we had always centered on tradition and values. It was very important to him that I be a good person. He certainly led by example. I loved spending time with him.
When I was nearly 16, Gido was rushed to the hospital one night. The next morning he was changed forever. A very aggressive bacterial infection ravaged his body. While it never took his life, it did take his legs. The trauma then led to a massive stroke which paralyzed the left side of his body. Two days earlier he was teaching me to drive while we were taking a break from hauling bails. He could lift a square bail effortlessly with one hand and toss it into the wagon. I struggled with all my might just to get one off the ground. This same powerful man, a soldier who fought for our country and our freedom, could no longer walk or speak. It was devastating.
Weeks later, when he was finally able to speak, he told me he didn’t want me to see him that way. He said he wasn’t a man anymore and made me promise to remember him as he was. Then he wept. I’d never seen Gido cry before that day. It was very emotionally overwhelming for me; it still is. He died soon after.
It took years for me to uphold my promise. All I could focus on was how he was taken. I was so angry because I felt he was robbed of a dignified departure. It still bothers me but now I focus on my promise, to remember him as he was.
- A young immigrant who took up arms to defend a country he barely knew.
- A soldier who grew up knowing what it meant to have limited freedom and was willing to give his life so his children’s children would never know tyranny.
- A farmer who poured his heart into the land to provide for his family.
- A father to 6 sons and a grandfather to many more.
- My hero.
Our lives end, but our memories have the potential to live on forever. Remember well.
Remembrance Day is officially a day to honor the fallen soldiers by remembering their sacrifice for our freedom. The hope is in remembering we may be able to avoid another great war. People also use this day to honor those who served and to keep in our thoughts those who are currently serving. In the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day, Canadians wear red poppies as a symbol of remembrance.