Ayden Garlinsky-Gonsky is serving on a Rotary Exchange in the Netherlands where he was able to get a greater sense of Canada’s effort in liberating the country.

Young Riverite gets up close and personal look at the war effort

The Canadian Armed Forces played a significant role in liberating the Netherlands

“It wasn’t until that moment, standing where 70 years ago a battle had raged, that I really felt the significance of what had happened.”

That’s the feeling Campbell River youth Ayden Garlinski-Gonsky described during a visit to the grave of a Canadian solider who died freeing the Netherlands from Nazi Germany rule.

Garlinski-Gonsky visited the memorial recently with his host grandmother who wanted to show the young man a small part of his Canadian heritage.

Garlinski-Gonsky, who graduated from Timberline this past summer, is currently on an exchange with Rotary, attending Grade 12 in Rhoon, a small town that borders the city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

Garlinski-Gonsky said his host grandmother was eager to show him the memorial to a Canadian solider who lost his life during the Liberation of the Netherlands during World War II.

So, after picking two roses from her garden, and attaching a small note to each stem, the pair set off.

“On the walk there, she told me the story of how this unknown Canadian solider had been the last person to die in a small battle that had taken place there,” Garlinski-Gonsky said in an email to the Rotary Club. “The memorial had been financed by members of the surrounding community who had decided to recognize the lives of the individuals who had lost their lives liberating (what was formerly known as) Holland.”

The Canadian Armed Forces (the First Canadian Army) played a significant role in liberating the Netherlands from a five-year long occupation by Nazi Germany. This May 5 marked 70 years since the Netherlands was freed by the allied forces.

Campbell River held a special ceremony in Spirit Square to mark the anniversary. The Netherlands has celebrated Liberation Day since 1945 and in 1990 it was first celebrated as a national holiday.

Garlinksi-Gonsky said seeing a memorial to one of the many who gave their lives in the pursuit of freedom was humbling.

“It was a very powerful moment for me as a Canadian, standing there with my host grandma, who had lived through the Second World War, paying our respects to this man who had liberated her neighbourhood.”

Garlinski-Gonsky, a member of the local youth band Off to Sea, said his host grandma then asked him to sing O Canada.

“After I finished singing, we placed our roses and headed back home,” he said. “Growing up in Canada, I had always known the significance of the Second World War, but it wasn’t until that moment, standing where 70 years ago a battle had raged, that I really felt the significance of what had happened over those dark six years.”

Ayden Garlinski-Gonski poses with new Dutch friends and other exchange students.