REMEMBRANCE DAY: Students preserve stories from local veterans

News Nov 09, 2017 by Colleen Toms Brant News

Dutch brothers Ray and Jack Reyenga never forgot the time they watched a pilot fly overhead in the Netherlands towing a glider that held about 20 paratroopers. 

The paratroopers would participate in Operation Market Garden — what would become known as A Bridge Too Far. 

Little did the young boys know then that they would be reunited with the pilot, Richard Wdowczyk, in Brantford about 50 years later. 

Theirs is one of many fascinating stories told by Polish and Canadian soldiers from the Second World War in videos created by St. John’s College (SJC) teacher Slawomir Dobrowolski, local author Zig Misiak, the Polish Combatants Association and St. John’s students. 

“When I got them on the video I said ‘listen, you guys have to meet,’” Misiak said of the Reyenga brothers and Wdowczyk. “They shook hands, they cried; it was phenomenal.” 

Both of Polish descent, Misiak and Dobrowolski realized in 2010 that the stories of their countrymen would disappear upon their deaths. 

“We realized that, even back in 2010, it’s approaching; these guys were getting older,” Misiak said. 

Once they started taking down veterans’ stories, however, Misiak and Dobrowolski felt the project needed to take on a broader scope. Instead of just documenting the stories of Polish veterans, they branched out to include Six Nations, Canadian, British and Dutch veterans, nurses and merchant marines. 

The project had a profound impact on all involved. 

“It was huge on ourselves, because we had to dig into some stuff, Slawek and I, not only from our own family perspective, but knowing the history going back a couple of hundred years,” Misiak said. “That after (the First World War), Poland had its sovereignty again 20 years later. 

“Two of the biggest countries on the planet — Russia and Germany — crushed us and then occupied us until 1991.” 

Former SJC student Brandon Pasternak was involved in the video project. Now residing in Toronto and studying law, Pasternak still remembers how powerful the stories were. 

“One of the things that I thought was really interesting was being able to hear those kind of really personal stories that people had, and also the fact that these are people that are part of the community — they are people you wouldn’t really get to hear from,” Pasternak said. 

“Their children, their grandchildren get to hear these stories, but not really everyone else. It’s really nice that you get to share that and get that perspective out there.” 

Of about 25 veterans who were interviewed for the project, only two are still with us today. 

“I think it’s important to get their stories down and to have people in the community be able to hear and experience that,” Pasternak said. “Also to get that cultural perspective out there … seeing that collective story that they have together.” 

Three films were made — For Your Freedom and Ours; God, Honour and Country; and Encased in Memory — with stories dating back to the War of 1812. 

“It was our passion,” Misiak said. “This has never been done before and we did it.” 

Pasternak and the students who worked on the project left behind a lasting legacy as they continued on with their lives after graduating high school. 

“Not everyone gets the chance to do that type of thing,” Pasternak said. “The stories, the histories are things that I really wouldn’t have been able to come across otherwise. And now a lot of people are exposed to that, which is really quite great. 

“When you take history (in school), you get the high-level stories of different things that happened. You rarely get those personal, super-interesting stories that are more relatable, in that these are people that live in the community where you’re from.” 

By preserving the stories of Brantford’s veterans, SJC was able to ensure their sacrifices would always be remembered. The hope is that the videos will also teach youth how horrific war can be. 

“It’s almost like ‘lest we forget,’ but that’s only part of it,” Misiak said. “Then what? There’s like 52 conflicts on the planet today, so what did we learn? Even stopping bullying in schools is, in a sense, a way of stopping wars.” 

Pasternak said involving youth in projects that connect them with people in their community can have a lasting impact. 

“Obviously, there’s still a lot of work that can be done,” he said. “I think it’s important to keep remembering those stories so we can remember what we’re trying to avoid in the future and in the present. 

“Having more projects like this from a community perspective is an important way to document what people in our community have gone through. It allows us to celebrate what they’ve done and what they’ve helped us with.” 

The videos were distributed to all local schools and legions. They can be viewed on YouTube by searching “For Your Freedom and Ours, SJC.” 

REMEMBRANCE DAY: Students preserve stories from local veterans

St. John’s College video project captures wartime memories while promoting awareness of sacrifice

News Nov 09, 2017 by Colleen Toms Brant News

Dutch brothers Ray and Jack Reyenga never forgot the time they watched a pilot fly overhead in the Netherlands towing a glider that held about 20 paratroopers. 

The paratroopers would participate in Operation Market Garden — what would become known as A Bridge Too Far. 

Little did the young boys know then that they would be reunited with the pilot, Richard Wdowczyk, in Brantford about 50 years later. 

Theirs is one of many fascinating stories told by Polish and Canadian soldiers from the Second World War in videos created by St. John’s College (SJC) teacher Slawomir Dobrowolski, local author Zig Misiak, the Polish Combatants Association and St. John’s students. 

Related Content

“When I got them on the video I said ‘listen, you guys have to meet,’” Misiak said of the Reyenga brothers and Wdowczyk. “They shook hands, they cried; it was phenomenal.” 

Both of Polish descent, Misiak and Dobrowolski realized in 2010 that the stories of their countrymen would disappear upon their deaths. 

“We realized that, even back in 2010, it’s approaching; these guys were getting older,” Misiak said. 

Once they started taking down veterans’ stories, however, Misiak and Dobrowolski felt the project needed to take on a broader scope. Instead of just documenting the stories of Polish veterans, they branched out to include Six Nations, Canadian, British and Dutch veterans, nurses and merchant marines. 

The project had a profound impact on all involved. 

“It was huge on ourselves, because we had to dig into some stuff, Slawek and I, not only from our own family perspective, but knowing the history going back a couple of hundred years,” Misiak said. “That after (the First World War), Poland had its sovereignty again 20 years later. 

“Two of the biggest countries on the planet — Russia and Germany — crushed us and then occupied us until 1991.” 

Former SJC student Brandon Pasternak was involved in the video project. Now residing in Toronto and studying law, Pasternak still remembers how powerful the stories were. 

“One of the things that I thought was really interesting was being able to hear those kind of really personal stories that people had, and also the fact that these are people that are part of the community — they are people you wouldn’t really get to hear from,” Pasternak said. 

“Their children, their grandchildren get to hear these stories, but not really everyone else. It’s really nice that you get to share that and get that perspective out there.” 

Of about 25 veterans who were interviewed for the project, only two are still with us today. 

“I think it’s important to get their stories down and to have people in the community be able to hear and experience that,” Pasternak said. “Also to get that cultural perspective out there … seeing that collective story that they have together.” 

Three films were made — For Your Freedom and Ours; God, Honour and Country; and Encased in Memory — with stories dating back to the War of 1812. 

“It was our passion,” Misiak said. “This has never been done before and we did it.” 

Pasternak and the students who worked on the project left behind a lasting legacy as they continued on with their lives after graduating high school. 

“Not everyone gets the chance to do that type of thing,” Pasternak said. “The stories, the histories are things that I really wouldn’t have been able to come across otherwise. And now a lot of people are exposed to that, which is really quite great. 

“When you take history (in school), you get the high-level stories of different things that happened. You rarely get those personal, super-interesting stories that are more relatable, in that these are people that live in the community where you’re from.” 

By preserving the stories of Brantford’s veterans, SJC was able to ensure their sacrifices would always be remembered. The hope is that the videos will also teach youth how horrific war can be. 

“It’s almost like ‘lest we forget,’ but that’s only part of it,” Misiak said. “Then what? There’s like 52 conflicts on the planet today, so what did we learn? Even stopping bullying in schools is, in a sense, a way of stopping wars.” 

Pasternak said involving youth in projects that connect them with people in their community can have a lasting impact. 

“Obviously, there’s still a lot of work that can be done,” he said. “I think it’s important to keep remembering those stories so we can remember what we’re trying to avoid in the future and in the present. 

“Having more projects like this from a community perspective is an important way to document what people in our community have gone through. It allows us to celebrate what they’ve done and what they’ve helped us with.” 

The videos were distributed to all local schools and legions. They can be viewed on YouTube by searching “For Your Freedom and Ours, SJC.” 

REMEMBRANCE DAY: Students preserve stories from local veterans

St. John’s College video project captures wartime memories while promoting awareness of sacrifice

News Nov 09, 2017 by Colleen Toms Brant News

Dutch brothers Ray and Jack Reyenga never forgot the time they watched a pilot fly overhead in the Netherlands towing a glider that held about 20 paratroopers. 

The paratroopers would participate in Operation Market Garden — what would become known as A Bridge Too Far. 

Little did the young boys know then that they would be reunited with the pilot, Richard Wdowczyk, in Brantford about 50 years later. 

Theirs is one of many fascinating stories told by Polish and Canadian soldiers from the Second World War in videos created by St. John’s College (SJC) teacher Slawomir Dobrowolski, local author Zig Misiak, the Polish Combatants Association and St. John’s students. 

Related Content

“When I got them on the video I said ‘listen, you guys have to meet,’” Misiak said of the Reyenga brothers and Wdowczyk. “They shook hands, they cried; it was phenomenal.” 

Both of Polish descent, Misiak and Dobrowolski realized in 2010 that the stories of their countrymen would disappear upon their deaths. 

“We realized that, even back in 2010, it’s approaching; these guys were getting older,” Misiak said. 

Once they started taking down veterans’ stories, however, Misiak and Dobrowolski felt the project needed to take on a broader scope. Instead of just documenting the stories of Polish veterans, they branched out to include Six Nations, Canadian, British and Dutch veterans, nurses and merchant marines. 

The project had a profound impact on all involved. 

“It was huge on ourselves, because we had to dig into some stuff, Slawek and I, not only from our own family perspective, but knowing the history going back a couple of hundred years,” Misiak said. “That after (the First World War), Poland had its sovereignty again 20 years later. 

“Two of the biggest countries on the planet — Russia and Germany — crushed us and then occupied us until 1991.” 

Former SJC student Brandon Pasternak was involved in the video project. Now residing in Toronto and studying law, Pasternak still remembers how powerful the stories were. 

“One of the things that I thought was really interesting was being able to hear those kind of really personal stories that people had, and also the fact that these are people that are part of the community — they are people you wouldn’t really get to hear from,” Pasternak said. 

“Their children, their grandchildren get to hear these stories, but not really everyone else. It’s really nice that you get to share that and get that perspective out there.” 

Of about 25 veterans who were interviewed for the project, only two are still with us today. 

“I think it’s important to get their stories down and to have people in the community be able to hear and experience that,” Pasternak said. “Also to get that cultural perspective out there … seeing that collective story that they have together.” 

Three films were made — For Your Freedom and Ours; God, Honour and Country; and Encased in Memory — with stories dating back to the War of 1812. 

“It was our passion,” Misiak said. “This has never been done before and we did it.” 

Pasternak and the students who worked on the project left behind a lasting legacy as they continued on with their lives after graduating high school. 

“Not everyone gets the chance to do that type of thing,” Pasternak said. “The stories, the histories are things that I really wouldn’t have been able to come across otherwise. And now a lot of people are exposed to that, which is really quite great. 

“When you take history (in school), you get the high-level stories of different things that happened. You rarely get those personal, super-interesting stories that are more relatable, in that these are people that live in the community where you’re from.” 

By preserving the stories of Brantford’s veterans, SJC was able to ensure their sacrifices would always be remembered. The hope is that the videos will also teach youth how horrific war can be. 

“It’s almost like ‘lest we forget,’ but that’s only part of it,” Misiak said. “Then what? There’s like 52 conflicts on the planet today, so what did we learn? Even stopping bullying in schools is, in a sense, a way of stopping wars.” 

Pasternak said involving youth in projects that connect them with people in their community can have a lasting impact. 

“Obviously, there’s still a lot of work that can be done,” he said. “I think it’s important to keep remembering those stories so we can remember what we’re trying to avoid in the future and in the present. 

“Having more projects like this from a community perspective is an important way to document what people in our community have gone through. It allows us to celebrate what they’ve done and what they’ve helped us with.” 

The videos were distributed to all local schools and legions. They can be viewed on YouTube by searching “For Your Freedom and Ours, SJC.”