Trav­el­ling to re­mem­ber

Jour­ney to Hol­land ceme­tery emo­tional, spir­i­tual ex­pe­ri­ence

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - DESTINATIONS - RON PRADINUK

IT is a pil­grim­age long awaited. It is the per­sonal and emo­tional story of one man’s jour­ney to re­vi­tal­ize the mem­ory of a sol­dier who was killed near the end of the Sec­ond World War. I am that man. And now, more than ever, I un­der­stand why peo­ple need to travel long dis­tances to pay homage to those who lived in the past, yet con­tinue to im­pact our present-day lives. I did not know Lewis Gal­lant, though his mem­ory has lived with me for vir­tu­ally ev­ery day of my life. He was my grand­par­ent’s only son, my mother’s brother, and my aunt’s hus­band. He went to war just as I was en­ter­ing this world. I was born June 2, 1944. My Un­cle Louie — that is the only name I knew him by grow­ing up — was killed in ac­tion April 9, 1945.

It is not pos­si­ble to re­place a lost son, but the love and sup­port I re­ceived from my grand­par­ents went well be­yond that of what most grand­par­ent re­la­tion­ships tend to be. I grew up in a small town in west­ern Man­i­toba. In 1950, my grand­mother was given six months to live with the then lit­tle known Ad­di­son’s disease. That prompted a move to Winnipeg, where she would be closer to her doc­tors. She would not only re­cover, but live well into her mid-80s. As a child, I spent ev­ery sum­mer and hol­i­day break with them in Winnipeg. I moved in with them upon grad­u­a­tion from high school. I was as close to my grand­par­ents as I was to my par­ents. It was ap­par­ent Pte. Lewis Gal­lant was a good man from the way my mother spoke of him. My grand­par­ents, how­ever, never talked about him around me. I only knew my un­cle had been killed in the final days of the war, and he was buried in Holten Canadian War Ceme­tery in Hol­land. Prior to my de­par­ture, I re­ceived a num­ber of pho­tos and other mem­o­ra­bilia from my 94-year-old aunt, Pauline. One of the items was a small book­let de­scrib­ing the day-to-day cam­paign of the Lake Su­pe­rior Reg­i­ment (Mo­tor), from its time in ac­tion on the war front start­ing in July 1944, un­til its last day: May 4, 1945. My un­cle was killed just weeks be­fore the Al­lies would be­gin pulling out of Europe. Holten is a small pic­turesque com­mu­nity lo­cated in the heart of the Sal­landse Heu­vel­rug National Park. The ceme­tery is si­t­u­ated on one of the hill­sides in the park, cre­at­ing a vis­ual im­pact be­fore even en­ter­ing the site. My un­cle’s grave stands near the front of some of the last rows of Cana­di­ans killed dur­ing the war. Next to him is buried Pte. John MacDougall, who was killed with my un­cle the same day, the only two from the reg­i­ment who lost their lives April 9, 1945. I would stay by my un­cle’s grave for a long time, try­ing to communicate through the decades the wishes I had that he might have lived, for my grand­par­ents, and to be my un­cle. Time erases mem­o­ries, and I won­dered if sub­se­quent gen­er­a­tions in Hol­land un­der­stood what the Canadian

RON PRADINUK / WINNIPE7 FREE PRESS

The Holten Canadian War Ceme­tery is kept in immaculate con­di­tion and man­aged by the Com­mon­wealth War 7raves Com­mis­sion.

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