Lest we forget

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Remembrance Day for me in the last couple of years has been given special meaning, thanks to Tanya Poznikoff and her Adam Robertson Elementary School students. In all but two years since 2009, Tanya has written a new play intended to help students (as well as parents and other teachers) appreciate the sacrifices that others have made in defense of our country.

Each year that I have attended, I found myself brushing back tears. Consider that I don’t have kids or grandkids in ARES, so the emotions are entirely a response to the play’s contents and the students’ performances.

Late in October I found myself wondering if there would be another original play at ARES this year. It’s a big undertaking for Tanya and she commented last year that she didn’t know if she would be doing another. I emailed her, and was very happy to learn there would indeed be another new production. She was also kind enough to send a copy of the script, snippets that I wish to share in this space.

“This year I am using Paul Simon’s The Sound of Silence song as the theme (our dramatic interpretation).  It is a new play, new kids, new story.  It’s getting a little challenging coming up with new ideas but being a part of the Remembrance Day play is now a Grade Seven rite of passage,” she said.

The action on stage provides a backdrop to illustrate the letters that the play’s narrators read. The letters are written by mothers to sons:

“Dear Son, I received your first letter this morning and I cannot tell you how excited I was.  My body was quivering with anticipation as I tore open the envelope.  However, as I read your words, I could not bare it.  I understand your fear and know how much you long to be home.  Remember son; you were always my brave, brave boy — the courageous one who battled through everything. This war is no different.  You WILL be home soon!  I am with you always — please don’t forget that…”

“…he has your eyes…that piercing blue.  He even gave me a small smile yesterday.  Somehow, I struggle to find joy in these milestones, as you are not here to share in them with me.  I cannot seem to rid myself of the worry you will not be returning.  My heart aches, Edward and I am often immobilized with fear.  Being alone as a mom is not what I expected…not how I planned things to be…”

“Days move so slowly when you’re away.  At times I feel selfish when I become absorbed in my own melancholy.  I have to shake myself and remember this is NOTHING compared to what you must be experiencing.  I never imagined how much time I would spend at the front window.  Each day I look and wonder and wait…will you be home?  Is it you pulling up in that strange car?  It never is, but I continue to have hope that you will return…”

Tanya’s plays are presented at a school assembly close to Remembrance Day, and each year a veteran speaks. Recently, Ian Currie has been making a presentation, drawing upon the memoirs of the late Bob Vigne, his close friend. Ian loaned the Advance his copy of Vigne’s memoir, a spiral bound collection that includes some of his many school presentations, and other memories, too. I want to close this column with a piece from one of Vigne’s stories, which tells about Godfrey Vigne.

1914 war was declared and Godfrey joined the army. With several other men from Invermere they were shipped to England.

Godfrey was wounded on the continent and repatriated to England to the Old Granville Hotel in Ramsgate, Kent, England, a posh hotel that had been turned into a military hospital.

Upon recovery, Godfrey became an ambulance driver.

It was at the Old Granville (that) Godfrey met and fell in love with Nellie Sutton. Nellie had a beautiful soprano voice and sang for wounded soldiers at the hospital.

Godfrey and Nellie married and their first son, Godfrey, was born in England.

In 1918, Godfrey returned to Invermere with his wife and young son.

In 1930, after the Vignes moved to Creston, Nellie was singing in her home and there was a knock on the door. Standing at the door was Mr. Morobito. He said to Nellie, “I would recognize your voice anywhere in the world.”

Mr. Moribito was an Italian (in the Canadian army) who had been wounded, and was a patient at the Old Granville. He had listened to Nellie when she was entertaining the wounded soldiers. Because of his injury, he had to lie on his stomach, and never saw Nellie. He recognized her only by her voice.