As reported previously on this blog, the 72nd Seaforth’s Warrant Officer Isabella Urbanowski was one of eleven cadets chosen to participate in the “Vimy Battlefield Tour” this year. Now back from that trip, she prepared and delivered the following remarks at the 2018 Vimy Day Commemoration at Mountainview Cemetery today. These remarks are reproduced below [photographs by 2LT Marcin Urbanowski]:
I know that a lot cadets are wondering why they are here today. You are here because the regiments that your corps are associated with were there, at Vimy Ridge, 101 years ago.
When I was selected by the Army Cadet League (BC Branch) to go to Europe as part of the Canadian Battlefields Tour, I had no idea how much it would mean to me. I found out in November that I would be going on this once-in-lifetime experience and I thought, “this will be really cool. There’s so much history to soak up.” and I kind of left it there.
Flash forward 5 months – I’m in the Arras-Vimy Region of Northern France, in a Greyhound bus with 39 other people, on the highway to visit Vimy Ridge and the Canadian National Memorial, looking out the window at the rolling countryside.
And that’s when I see it.
And it takes my breath away.
On top of the tallest hill in the area are two glowing white pillars that don’t seem big at all, but they must be, because you can see them from the highway and they are taller than the trees on either side.
In order to walk up to the Monument itself, you walk up a winding road from the Visitors Centre. This road follows, almost exactly, the route that the Canadian Divisions took up that hill. The forest on both sides of the road have been preserved from WW1. There are 100-year-old shell craters from the battle, some only about a foot deep and 2 feet across, and others that are closer to 30 feet deep and 50 feet across, and every size imaginable between.
Once you get to the top of the hill, you are standing facing the monument and it’s larger than you ever imagined, the tallest point being the Torch of the figure of Peace. To put in perspective, the entire monument is almost as tall as the Vancouver City Hall.
As you get closer, you start to realize what the monument represents; Loss. Sorrow. Grief. The lost generation remembered with their names carved into the walls at the base of the monument. Mother Canada, overlooking a tomb, mourning the loss of her children. But this monument also represents the values that Canadians hold dear; Charity. Hope. Honour. Truth. Knowledge. Faith. Justice. Peace.
The hope that we can make a better tomorrow, the knowledge of our past, the faith that we have in each other, and the truth that, only by acknowledging the sacrifices of our ancestors, we can foster peace.
I’m telling you this to try to get you to understand a little how I felt at Vimy Ridge. I felt the most amount of pride that I have ever felt together with an immense sorrow at the huge loss that occurred on the ground that I stood on. But I also felt hope, hope that we are on a better path for humanity, hope that we will never forget what happened, hope that we will never repeat what happened.
We will remember them.