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Published November 2021
By Marilynn Vanderstaay

A war memorial dedicated to Canadian soldiers in Charlottetown, Canada Photo Credit: Veterans Affairs Canada

“I can never forget the absolute joy we felt, or be thankful enough, when Canadian troops marched into Rotterdam on May 8, 1944, to liberate us from five years of Nazi occupation. After months of starving, we were literally cooking the last of our meals of seeds and tulip bulbs” Dutch Canadian Tott Moens told members and guests at the Rotary Club of Westmount annual Remembrance Day observation lunch.

It was November 10, 2011, and at 85, Moens had never shared her whole story, even with her two daughters. She did do that finally that day, and passed away just eight weeks later from heart failure, as if the weight of what had to be told had been lifted and she could leave.

She arrived in Canada to marry her Canadian Dutch husband, Wilfred Vanderstaay in 1949 and soon after became a Canadian citizen. But only 67 years after the liberation did she share, for the first time, the stories of her family’s involvement in the resistance detailing what she and her family and neighbours had experienced; hiding Jews between their walls and in their attics, abrupt visits from Gestapo who demanded everything from food to money and more.

The same stories many first-generation Canadian Dutch children grew up with at the dinner table. But she had never told her story until then, although her motto in her senior community had become Lest We Forget.

In recent years there has been an influx of refugees and immigrants to Canada, most currently from Afghanistan. In addition to what we know and what we think we know from what we have seen on the news, each one of those men, women and children is dealing with their own personal trauma of what they have and are experiencing. The shock of being uprooted and losing everything to being transported… thankfully… to a new country but where they do not speak the language, where absolutely nothing is familiar, and all that goes with acclimatizing to a new culture. As much as Canadian veterans and survivors are still suffering with PTSD from a war they experienced 75 years ago, these soon to be new Canadians are dealing with very real and very recent trauma they are living day by day.

So how should we recognize Remembrance Day 2021. As a first generation Canadian who watched her family settle into life in Canada where they were considered immigrants, outsiders, while they were getting through their trauma, I would hope that in addition to recognizing the courage and sacrifice of the brave Canadian soldiers, we will recognize what is going on around us.

This year, as I put on perhaps more than one lest we forget poppy held in place by a Canadian flag pin, I will thank Jesus I was born in one of the safest countries in the world. I will thank God my parents survived not only the war but the ease in which they came to Canada, where they did, after some years, become Canadians in culture as well as name. Although I do consider myself to be Canadian European in culture.

And I will thank Holy Spirit He guided them safely to Canada where they always had a safe place to live and food on their table.

I will give a donation to the Royal Canadian Legion even if it is just $5 for a new poppy.

But this year I will find ways to welcome refugees to Canada by donating food, buying some clothing ... perhaps winterwear, and if nothing else smiling a welcoming smile that will warm us both up.

And for years to come I will make certain I do not tolerate even a fleeting word of anti-Semitism. Lest we forget.

About the author; Marilynn Vanderstaay
Marilynn is a deep-rooted Christian whose life as a Believer since she was just three is intertwined with everything she puts her hands to professionally and personally.

A community investment specialist, she is a journalist and columnist who writes for community, local and national publications celebrating life and successes, yet when necessary, exposing the not so nice. Her columns and e-zines are read and enjoyed.

She is a soft skills trainer/inspirational speaker. A fabric artisan whose works hang in a gallery in Old Montreal and are published in a coffee table book.

And she is an impresario who organizes faith, friends, food, and fun events. And yes, she is a five-time life threatening cancer overcomer, healed by Jesus to declare the illustrious acts of the Lord. Psalm 118:17