Every year, in every corner of Canada, a huge collection of teachers, youth and Legionnaires come together to create art in the name of remembrance, giving life to the Legion’s annual poster and literary contests.
In 2014 thousands of students from across the country—from Corner Brook to Cranbrook—worked long and hard to determine what, exactly, remembrance meant to them and then sought out to capture that feeling in art. The poems, essays and posters they created were judged at the local, regional and provincial levels before a special few made it to dominion level to be selected as first-place winners.
From the primary level through junior and intermediate all the way to senior, the works these students produced is as varied as possible, but the same theme occurs again and again.
Senior poetry winner Sarah Jessica Butler, 16, of Torbay, Nfld., sums it up perfectly when she says, “My inspiration for the poem was how little the youth of today can relate to the war. While we may have had family involved, we still don’t have any first-hand experiences with the battlefields and all their tragedies. I felt that expressing how little we as youth relate would be an effective way to show just how important knowledge of our country’s past involvement is.”
Her poem, The Lucky Ones, is a beautifully structured examination of the divide that exists between youth and those who serve or have served.
6 a.m.; Our alarms go off,
we’re up for the day
I get ready for school, you gear up
for another long day of work.
I ride the bus, you ride in a tank,
both to a place we’d rather not be.
The poem goes on to explore how this soldier, now standing near Butler at a school Remembrance Day ceremony, will feel so much during the moment of silence while Sarah feels something quite different.
As we take a moment of silence,
your mind flashes to the battlefield,
Mine to the pictures in my history book.
you’re on that battlefield,
I’m in a crowded gym listening to
the sound of silence.
I don’t feel the explosions nearby,
I don’t have a gun in my hands,
I’m a student in a school with an
armful of books.
The silence goes on and
you’re still on that battlefield.
I’m still in that gym, trying to feel
For Butler, the tragedy is that war is compounded by the divide that exists between those who’ve been there and those who haven’t. “Growing up in a peaceful environment with very few worries and an abundance of things we take for granted makes it incredibly hard to understand what soldiers went through,” she said. “While I’ve learnt through history class, I still lack any true understanding of how tragic it was, so I felt that my poem was an accurate expression of how frustrating that lacking of connection is.”
Butler pushes on in her poem to realize that she does share a bond with the soldier.
We both stand as the Last Post
is played proudly.
I may not be able to relate,
but I still bow my head
For that moment of silence
to remember those
Who didn’t make it home that day,
who won’t see their families again.
An education, a safe home,
I’m one of the lucky ones.
A family, no more gunfire,
you’re one of the lucky ones.
In this moment, we’re finally the same.
We’re here, we’re alive,
we are the lucky ones.
For Butler, the bond is one important aspect of remembrance, but there are others too. “I think remembrance is something that everyone needs to take time for whether it’s just for a moment of silence on Remembrance Day, or if they make more of an effort to remember our fallen soldiers, the bravery and strength of those young men and women who gave up their lives (literally and even if they survived, they still suffer from the memories) is something that we all need to look up to and respect,” she said. “After visiting numerous grave sites in Europe and seeing how many are unknown, it became incredibly easy to see how those soldiers could be forgotten, so I think that by taking time to reflect and remember we give those unknown and even known lives a little spark of appreciation and respect which lets them live on forever.”
For Darynn Bednarczyk, 17, of Cranbrook, B.C., who won the senior black and white poster contest with her moving depiction of her veteran grandfather, remembrance is a personal and incredibly significant issue. “Remembrance Day has always been a very important thing to both me and my family,” she says. “It is extremely important to give thanks to those who fought and lost their lives for us. We have a debt to these people, and giving them just a moment of thought is the least we can do. Everything we have around us today is because of the soldiers who risked their lives. They gave us freedom, and we often take that for granted. It fills my heart with joy when I see the world come together to remember just that, to take just a fraction of time from our busy lives and give thanks and remember the fallen. They are heroes, and they deserve to be recognized.”
Bednarczyk’s poster is made up of scenes taken from family albums which show her grandfather—Stanley Bednarczyk—at various stages throughout his life and military career.
“This poster is a tribute to my grandfather,” she said. “All of the photos on the left are actual photos from our family album and my grandpa stars in most of them. I also included his young soldier photo in which he wears his Polish uniform. I replicated his war medals as well. On the right is his veteran portrait in which he wears his Canadian Legion uniform. He was always so proud to wear his medals and uniform in the community Remembrance Day ceremony.”
Beyond being a proud Legionnaire, her grandfather served in the thick of the Second World War, experiences which would go on to motivate Bednarczyk in her artwork. “He was taken by the Russian army to Siberia to work in the labour camps at age 15,” she said. “After two years of work he joined the Polish army and became a member of the 2nd Polish Corps. He was trained as a Bren gun carrier driver and worked in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt to prepare for the battle of Monte Cassino. He was one of only two from his squad of ten to survive the battle.”
Indeed, many of the submissions to this year’s contest share the theme of remembering family members who served or were lost. For Bednarczyk, this aspect provided meaning to her work regardless of whether she won the contest or not. “Using Grandpa as a subject took the poster to the next level and provided meaning to both my family and the contest,” she said. “I knew that when I completed the poster it was a success just from my Dad’s reaction alone, any placing it got after that was just a bonus.”
As a reward for winning, both Bednarczyk and Butler will be joining the two other senior contest winners—essayist Hareem Masroor from Nanaimo, B.C., and colour poster winner Joo Hee Chung of Langley, B.C.,—in travelling to Ottawa for the 2014 National Remembrance Day Ceremony. The four winners will not only have a chance to meet the Governor General, but they will place a wreath at the National War Memorial together on behalf of all Canadian youth.
“It is such an honour to have this opportunity,” said Bednarczyk. “I couldn’t be more excited! My art has taken me so far and it’s crazy to be recognized on a national scale. I won this contest for Grandpa and he would have been so proud of me. I wouldn’t be here without him.”
As for Butler, she too is looking forward to making the trip to Ottawa. “I think that my experience with taking part in the Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa will be life changing,” she said. “I feel like it will empower my personal remembrance and make it even stronger and I hope that I can bring back something from it to share with others to bring them a stronger sense of remembrance.”
For those interested in viewing the poems, essays and posters first-hand, the winning entries will be displayed at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa from now until May 2015.
Senior Essay First Place
By Hareem Masroor
Two minutes of silence is all we have to remember the fallen. I look up and see the veterans. The medals on their uniforms gleam in the sunlight. The call for the two-minute silence was made. As their heads hung, their faces reveal sorrow from the memories of the war, however there’s also a glimpse of strength, pride and relief. I turn my head to the left and see a row of brightly coloured poppies pinned onto the shirts of those I see.
For most of us kids it was unnatural to be in such a quiet setting, but once I closed my eyes I began to dwell into the mindset of why we remember. It was here when I realize that there was more to this silence than simply trying to remember soldiers, nurses and others who participated meet horrific ends.
These two minutes allow us to think deeply. War was able to destroy lives of so many families and innocent people, but it wasn’t able to destroy the hope that clung within them, the action to carry on nor the ability to ever say our county “will never win.” It is this significance that marks an important feeling in our hearts. The reason we have silence is to mark the end of war. We remember more than lost lives within two minutes. We reflect on what the soldiers were fighting for, how they chose to enter darkness in order to give us light.
Their harsh conditions brought us all comfort and freedom, their struggles on the battlefield is what gave us a strong country, their lives were given to let our children move on and start life at a better place.
It seemed as if the whole place fell still, frozen in time. This moment is when we all put aside our boundaries such as gender, religion and class to unite in remembrance. The silence breaks with a strong sound coming from a trumpet as it plays the [Last Post].
Afterwards the ceremony concludes with speeches and then a last march accompanied by bagpipes. I noticed tears spring from a veteran’s eyes. It filled me with just as much sadness. I couldn’t imagine the pain and sorrow it must have been to watch comrades die in front of your eyes or to know that you couldn’t see the faces of your loved ones ever again.
After all I was just a kid and the idea of war was so distant. It really is admirable when you think about it. These people were just neighbours and good citizens, yet they had the courage to fight in war and leave their homes to protect the future of their country and generations.
To me that deserves a huge recognition and award. I walked over to the veteran and plainly replied, “Thank you for your service and God bless you all for what you did.”
I know that words can’t truly express the debt that we owe them but it still felt right to show this person how grateful I was for his and all the fellow veterans’ services.
Remembrance Day, it comes only once a year, but on this one day the heart of the ceremony comes from the silence. It gives us some understanding about war and the effects of sacrifice, a lesson seldom seen and also a lesson that can never be truly grasped from books. We recognize the efforts of mere strangers who placed themselves either at land or sea to make sure that we’re given the opportunities that we have today. This gives us an infinite way of honouring, respecting and giving our thanks to these soldiers. I stand taller, walk prouder and feel confident that I am a Canadian. What’s great is that I’ve learned most of this through silence, a two-minute silence.
2014 National Results
COLOUR POSTER—First: Joo Hee Chung, Langley, B.C.; Second: Srinidhi Shaw, Hamilton, Ont.; Honourable Mention: Nanako Emori, Banff, Alta.
BLACK AND WHITE POSTER—First: Darynn Bednarczyk, Cranbrook, B.C.; Second: Naomi Wang, Cornwall, Ont.; Honourable Mention: Keisha Collins, Eastport, Nfld.
POEM—First: Sarah Jessica Butler, Torbay, Nfld.; Second: Alice Grier Guimond, Woodmore, Man.; Honourable Mention: Kailey Marie Kralkay, Quill Lake, Sask.
ESSAY—First: Hareem Masroor, Nanaimo, B.C.; Second: Cassandra Slade, Carbonear, Nfld.; Honourable Mention: Bessie McNary, Hazlet, Sask.
COLOUR POSTER—First: Mary Mao, Coquitlam, B.C.; Second: Sarah Cheyenne Feener, Grand Falls, Nfld.; Honourable Mention: Charissa Alana Teal, Hagersville, Ont.
BLACK AND WHITE POSTER—First: Christine Devine, Toronto; Second: Marina Gampe, Unity, Sask.; Honourable Mention: Brianna Cruse, St. Albert, Alta.
POEM—First: Jordan Pomeroy, Placentia, Nfld.; Second: Jordan Marie Florence Jacobs, Rockglen, Sask.; Honourable Mention: Houda Shafique, Longueuil, Que.
ESSAY—First: Rachel Cey, Wilke, Sask.; Second: Kate Reilly, Richmond, B.C.; Honourable Mention: Veronica MacDonald, Goshen, N.S.
COLOUR POSTER—First: Anneke Joy Brink, Brampton, Ont.; Second: Shuke (Amelia) Jiang, Calgary; Honourable Mention: Alexis Gortemarker, Lorette, Man.
BLACK AND WHITE POSTER—First: Trista Bering, Kingsville, Ont.; Second: Carnell Zhou, Vancouver; Honourable Mention: Kacey Douthwright, Southfield, N.B.
POEM—First: Roman Javorek, Kentville, N.S.; Second: Joshua Rohde, Lumsden, Sask.; Honourable Mention: Jaden Gammon, North Tetagouche, N.B.
ESSAY—First: Laren Gatto, Elmsdale, N.S.; Second: Vincent Belzile, Fredericton; Honourable Mention: Cassandra Anne Hogan, Small Point, Nfld.
COLOUR POSTER—First: Randi Milbrandt, Estevan, Sask.; Second: Victoria Donna Jackson, Cole Harbour, N.S.; Honourable Mention: Titus Stahl, Camrose, Alta.
BLACK AND WHITE POSTER—First: Jessica Hofer, Camrose, Alta.; Second: James Theodore Brink, Brampton, Ont.; Honourable Mention: Madalyn Waye-Sobey, Maple Glen, N.B.