In addition to those war dead whose memory we honour on Remembrance Day, I wish to remember those whom very few in Canada will think of -- not the soldiers, but the ordinary people, the innocent victims of war. I was born right after the war, but my family and I still bear the scars.
On this day
- Remember those who died in the flames of their own homes, bombed by one side or the other.
- Remember those who were left hanging for days on Gestapo gallows in so many Ukrainian villages, as a reminder to others not to oppose foreign authority.
- Remember those who were herded into cattle cars from village and city markets, into forced labour, who died in German factories and railroads from Allied bombs.
- Remember those who were forced into the German army, to die in internment camps from starvation and typhoid without fighting for or against anyone.
- Remember the concentration camp inmates, not only the Jews, but the clergy, the Ukrainians, Poles, Balts, Gypsies, and the homosexuals.
- Remember those who were executed on the spot for harboring or even feeding Jews.
- Remember the political prisoners who were executed in their cells or left for dead by the retreating Soviet army.
- Remember the underground and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, who fought both the Nazis and the Soviets, with no aid from anyone else.
- Remember the refugees who died fleeing their homes, who were killed as they rode or walked the roads west -- shot down by low-flying Soviet planes who could see whom they were shooting.
- Remember those who died after being forcibly repatriated from the Displaced Persons camps to the Soviet Union -- and those who committed suicide rather than return.
- Remember those who massively deserted the Red Army, to fight for independence, who were sent to dig ditches instead, only to die in them.
- Remember the orphans, and the helpless elderly.
- Remember the babies, who died of hunger and lack of medical care. There were no doctors for the untermenschen, the "subhuman" Slavs.
- Remember the survivors, some of whom are the living dead, whose minds and emotions have departed to another time and place because of what they lived through then.
- Remember the millions -- victims of war, conquest, hunger -- who lie in unmarked graves throughout Eastern Europe, whom the West has forgotten or chooses to ignore.
- Remember, then dare look me in the eye and tell me about war crimes, collaboration, and atrocities.
- Remember, and thank God the war was not fought on North American soil.
© 1999 Orysia Tracz, Winnipeg.
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Originally composed: Monday November 8th, 1999.
Date last modified: Monday November 8th, 1999.