I wasn't exactly sure how this would feel, riding a bicycle to quiet Dutch graveyards with a camera. It's a strange feeling really. Once I began this mission though, I felt a connection with the four Canadians I found in three nearby towns. We are all Canadian. These men never got to live long enough to see the nation called The Netherlands bounce back from the decimation it experienced in the Second World War. As a Canadian now living in The Netherlands, I'm grateful for the sacrifices that made a free, happy life in both countries possible.
Here's part one of giving thanks to some of the Canadians who made the ultimate sacrifice in The Netherlands.
Alex Joseph Donohue(35) of New Victoria, Nova Scotia - Died May 11, 1945
Living here in the province of North-Holland, The Netherlands for half a year now, I've met many Dutch people and participated in Dutch culture. I'm happy to call this place home, if even only temporarily. This week, I was surprised to feel a renewed connection to Canada when I arrived at my first Canadian War Grave. I rode through the quiet town of Bloemendaal, though in the moment not so quiet.
It was lunch break and children were playing in an adjacent school yard, birds singing and wind rusting leaves on the ground. It was beautiful, but somehow Alex's death didn't feel that way. I know nothing about him; why is he here, the only Canadian in this graveyard? It's a mystery, and it got me thinking. He deserves moments like this, when visitors to his final resting place spare a thought about his life and those of others killed in war. I took time to reflect on what we as a species haven't learned in the last hundred years since the "war to end all wars".
According to a newspaper clipping of the time, he died in an "accident" three days after the war ended. That is a sacrifice. I placed my hand on the engraved maple leaf and said "see ya later." I'm not sure why I chose those words, but it made sense. We all live and die, just sometimes too soon.