The Memory Project in London and Hamilton, Ontario – June 2012
In London on June 19 and Hamilton on June 20, the Memory Project continued its mandate to collect the stories of Second World War and Korean War veterans in the hopes of preserving their experiences for future generations. The events in Southwestern Ontario garnered a diverse set of stories from individuals who experienced first-hand the Second World War and the Korean War.
In his native language, Sung Keun Park recalled fleeing North Korea and being inducted into the Republic of Korea Army. After brief training, Park operated as a South Korean guerilla fighter, conducting intelligence missions and combat raids. His unit undersupplied, Park and his fellow soldiers sometimes attempted to capture enemy soldiers without weapons, instead relying on careful planning to catch the enemy off-guard.
Stanley “Sam” Carr fought on the same side as Park, but remembered a very different war. Serving with The Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR), Carr experienced a disorienting war of patrols, close combat, and trench warfare. The enemy was always watching from their perches on neighbouring hills and Chinese raids took not only a physical toll on the RCR troops, but also exacted a significant and lasting mental anguish. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder decades after the war, Carr felt it was important to share his story so that others would not forget his experience, which mirrors countless others similarly devastated by war and trauma.
Betty Laron remembers the war through her eyes as a young Jewish girl. Barely a teenager by the time Germany invaded the Netherlands, she and her family struggled through incredible hardship as the German occupiers and Dutch collaborators began to round up Jews to be sent to their deaths. Finding a dedicated network of supporters, Betty and her family were secreted away to the upper apartment of a local Catholic household. Knowing that discovery meant almost certain death for them all, Laron’s family had to speak in whispers, passing their time drawing and making wooden toys for nearly three years without venturing outside. On April 3, 1945 Laron recalled seeing Canadian troops enter the town and rounding the corner to her house. She and her family survived the war, but nearly 100,000 Dutch Jews were murdered, approximately 75% of the Jewish population of the country.
These personal testimonies demonstrate the extraordinary collection of memories which exist within our communities. However, these stories, and their historical lessons, cannot leave a legacy if we make no effort to record them. The great joy in working for the Memory Project Archive is the knowledge that we are documenting not just personal histories or local histories, but in fact world history, and making permanent the wealth of information that otherwise vanishes each time we lose another witness to our history.