Column: Remembrance Day

Jane Reddington

Sounder Staff

Tuesday, November 8 2016

I’m going to put my poppy on today. I usually keep one sticking into my grandmother’s mirror that sits on my dresser all year round. The poppies that people wear on their coats and jackets is one of my favourite things about Remembrance Day. As a family, we like to go to the Gabriola Memorial Cairn at the RCMP station every year for the service, but this year has been different. 

I had the privilege this week of talking with Antoinette Herivel, an artist who showed me her exhibit called “Fragmented,” which is open for the public at her studio Maison Bleue on November 11, 2016.

Walking past the 17 panels she has created, I thought about how lucky I was to see her art, to share her families’ artifacts from a dark time in history when the Germans occupied their island of Jersey, near the coast of Normandy, France. This was a story I’d never heard before. It felt fresh and each panel had its own theme, like “Occupied,” and “Dissident, and “Throw Away Women.” 

It made me think about what life would be like for us if Gabriola was occupied for five years. If being found in the possession of letters and news from the rest of the world could be cause one to be thrown in prison, and if the prisons were full, residents might be sent to a concentration camp in Europe.

We live in such perfect conditions, in a country that protects our rights, on an island of peace and relative tranquility. But what if our radios were confiscated, not to mention our computers and televisions and book burning was the norm? 

During that time, cars were confiscated, food was rationed, and everyone lived in fear. Herivel told me about her grandparents, who built a new house and when the Germans came they took the house and used it for an officer’s mess. We would be outraged. We would protest. But they could do nothing.  

Herivel has done something extraordinary with her exhibit. She has made WWII and the atrocities suffered personal. Each piece has been so masterfully created that each one must be viewed with time to spare. 

As a whole, the exhibit made me feel lucky to live in the age I do now, to be of this generation that has never known war. 

My husband has not been asked to fight in a war, my father escaped the torments of war too. It was my grandfather who was a Commander in the Royal British Navy. His legacy lives on in the memoirs he wrote about his time at sea and in the peace we take for granted. 

Make the time on November 11 to visit Herivel’s studio from 1-5pm. Read the telegrams, see the diary entries and take a moment to remember how truly blessed we are to live in Canada. Remember those that fought for our freedom and those that gave their lives so that we may have this life of abundance.