Carl Kolonsky receives a Certificate of Recognition for his service during the Second World War. Kolonsky, 95, was in the Netherlands during the country’s liberation. He is currently receiving care at the Campbell River hospital. Photo by Island Health

Campbell River veteran honoured while in hospital

Carl Kolonsky was just 20 years old when he arrived in Belgium in 1944. It was late October when he joined the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. The Canadian soldier was in the Netherlands six months on as German forces surrendered there on May 5, 1945.

Now, 75 years later, many commemorative events were planned to mark the date.

According to a story on Island Health’s website, Kolonsky, now 95, had been invited to attend two previous anniversary events in the Netherlands, but had been unable to attend. So he was looking forward to the trip this May, when he was to be a special guest of the Dutch. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the trip and events were cancelled.

“Unfortunately, COVID stepped in the way,” said Kolonsky’s son Don. “He is one of the handful that was going to go.”

Then, to make matters worse, Kolonsky had a fall last month, which sent him to the Campbell River hospital for hip replacement surgery and recovery.

Shortly after his fall, Kolonsky received some mail from Ottawa. It was a Certificate of Recognition signed by Minister of Veteran Affairs Lawrence MacAulay.

Story continues below.

A young Carl Kolonsky. Photo courtesy of Island Health

“On behalf of a grateful nation, we present this Certificate to Carl Kolonsky as a tribute to your selfless acts of service and sacrifice during the Second World War, in defence of Canada and our shared values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law,” it reads.

Due to heightened visitor protocols, Kolonsky and Don have only been able to meet over the phone. But Don thought the certificate might help raise his father’s spirits. So he contacted Island Health and that’s when hospital site director Christina Rozema got involved.

RELATED: This year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands on May 5, 1945

Her own father-in-law was just 10 when Canadians liberated his region in the north of the Netherlands.

“He always talked about how amazing that time was, when they traded eggs for cigarettes and chocolate,” she said. “He laughed when he needed hospital care. He’d say, ‘that’s fair, the Canadians gave me cigarettes, so the Canadians now can look after me.’”

Rozema and a handful of other staff with Dutch heritage gathered in Kolonsky’s room to deliver the certificate in a special small ceremony, which is highlighted on Island Health’s website.

“It was an amazing thing you did,” Rozema said as she presented the certificate to him. “Understand how grateful people are, and how pleased I am to be able to give you that certificate today.”

Story continues below.

Carl Kolonsky receives a Certificate of Recognition for his service during the Second World War. Kolonsky, 95, was in the Netherlands during the country’s liberation. He is currently receiving care at the Campbell River hospital. Photo by Island Health

“It’s such a pleasure to hear from you people,” said Kolonsky. “Thank you very much.”

Don said that his father is disappointed the trip couldn’t happen this year, but they’re optimistic that if all goes well, it’ll only be a postponement.

Local Dutch community member Pieter Koeleman echoed the sentiment.

“I’ve known Carl for a long time,” he said. “Every time we had a commemoration, he was there. This year he was going to the Netherlands, so it was a disappointment to hear it was cancelled.”

He joined the group of staff just outside the hospital’s entrance, where they unfurled a Dutch and a Canadian flag to signify the special relationship between the two nations.

Ingrid van Kesteren, manager of transition and support, has family from the Netherlands. She’s heard plenty of stories from her parents about the occupation and liberation.

“I’ve always really appreciated looking after people who fought in the Netherlands in the Canadian Army, because then I had an opportunity to say thank you in person, like we did today,” she said.

“It’s a privilege and I’m really grateful, because the country would have been so different and our futures would have been completely different if the country had not been liberated.”

The Canadian and Dutch flags are unfurled outside of the Campbell River hospital. Photo by Island Health

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Campbell RiverWorld War II

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIJHL season could start Oct. 1, says league president

League awaiting final approval from local health authorities and viaSport

First fall storm approaching Campbell River

The area is under a special weather statement for expected wind and rain

RCMP investigation underway under Tamarac Street

Campbell River RCMP is conducting an investigation under Tamarac Street in Campbell… Continue reading

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

‘Unprecedented’ coalition demands end to B.C. salmon farms

First Nations, commercial fishermen among group calling for action on Cohen recommendations

Earthquake off coast of Washington recorded at 4.1 magnitude

The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometres

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Most Read