Canadian National War Memorial

Finding the roots of Remembrance Day

Canadian National War Memorial

The National War Memorial in Confederation Square in Ottawa is named “The Response” and was built to commemorate the heroic efforts of Canada’s soldiers during World War I. (Julia Pelish/

Column by Ilona Kauremszky Senior Writer

I’m somebody who gets all welled up over the corniest films and totally teary eyed over the saddest movie of all time, An Affair to Remember starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr.

But the other lump in my throat that starts to grow around this time of year centres around the annual memorial when Armistice happened on November 11, 1918.

Remembrance Day has different meanings to us all. Some of us mourn the loss of our ancestors, those brave young souls who never had a chance to grow old. They couldn’t give their spouse that last hug, that final kiss or even that easy smile conveying all is well.

So on this particular Remembrance Day, the eve of the commencement of the Great War Centenary, I feel my heart filling again with the heavy sadness of loss. I could only imagine what tragedies took place, what terrible fate was destined for so many. The pure bad luck in being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The smell of death and the sheer darkness and the horror I heard about the Great War during my school years, all this gets stirred again.

It is all so consuming.

But I feel I am ready to make this trip, this chapter in my life to cross the Great Pond to see where the spirits of so many Canadian souls lay.

November 11 Offers a Chance to Pay Respects

I shall walk in Flanders Fields. I shall pay my respect to those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that future generations like mine can live freely in peace.

As a school girl I was only able to imagine what the fields in Belgium looked like. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the bell rang, the principal made an announcement followed by the one minute silence during each Remembrance Day.

But in more recent years on occasions when I was home I made my way to a ceremony. We heard a lone bagpiper lament, sometimes the sound of gunshots followed by the stoic but now fragile salute from the few surviving soldiers from the Second World War and then the deathly silence.

Now as the number of war vets of the First World War are no more it saddens me to know that they too have passed. Their stories are gone forever.

After all, this was the generation of the stiff upper lip. Such talk of the War to End All Wars was rarely spoken. Men suffering from shell shock and the effects from mustard gas let alone the shrapnel stuck to their sides until the day they died all suffered in silence.

On the eve of the 100th anniversary of that Great War we have to ask ourselves what was it all for?

I hope to know – I want to know as I prepare to embark on a sombre journey to finally see where all the poppies grow.’s Ilona Kauremszky will be travelling to Belgium to provide stories of Canadians’ legacy from World War I. Watch for her travel articles in 2014.

Ilona Kauremszky has worked with numerous tourism offices around the world. An award-winning journalist, she is a travel columnist and has penned pieces for inflight magazines and major tour operators. She also makes appearances on TV and radio. Co-producer of Ilona is forever finding great stories in the strangest places. Follow her travel pursuits on Twitter and YouTube @mycompasstv


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