Take the time to honour our veterans

During National Veterans’ Week (Nov. 5-11), I encourage you to honour our veterans by “sharing the story.”
Take some time this week and ask a veteran why they chose to fight for peace and freedom, and what was the impact of their actions on the world today.
Discover how their experiences changed their lives.
Mieczyslaw Kalaska’s story starts in Poland. In September, 1939, he was 16 years old and just starting Grade 11 when his teacher told the class that a war had broken out and they had to leave.
He returned to his home town and patrolled the streets with his father, who was on the state police force.
Once the Russians invaded Poland, he and his father fled to a Hungarian prisoner of war camp, leaving behind his mother, brother, and two sisters.
As a PoW, he was moved to Germany, but managed to get away and travel by train to Budapest, where he got a passport, identification, and tickets to the Hungarian border.
On a rainy night, he was led through the bush to a place where gypsy smugglers took his group on a raft across the river to Yugoslavia.
After a train to Zagreb, and a ride on the “Warsaw,” a Polish freighter, he arrived in Beirut in May, 1940 and signed up to fight in the war.
Mr. Kalaska spent the war with his unit training and fighting in Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon, and finally Italy. One day in May, 1945, everything got quiet. The war was over.
“It was like 100 pounds of stones were lifted off my shoulders,” Mr. Kalaska recalled. “It was a huge sense of relief.”
After five years of war, Mr. Kalaska, along with his Polish combatants, felt abandoned. They could not return to home.
After transferring thousands of German prisoners of war back home, he had to decide where to go: the United States, Britain, Argentina, Australia, and others.
He chose Canada.
He met his wife, Gertie, here and they have three sons, a daughter, and six grandchildren. He has no regrets about his decision. He enjoys his life and his freedoms.
He is a proud Canadian.
Mr. Kalaska is one of the lucky ones. Many go to war and do not return. Take time this week to reflect on the sacrifices others have made for us and for those continuing to serve our nation today.
We shall always remember.

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