When Debby Pavlove, grade four teacher at Breslau PS,( a community located just outside of Kitchener) and her family travelled to Europe for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele, she sought out information about her great- great uncle. He had fought in WWI and died in Passchendaele at the age of 24.
Pavlove’s father, Ray Pavlove, served in the Royal Canadian Air Force doing ammunition and weapons for three years.
“My husband and I had been visiting Menin Gate, and coincidentally we had seen (my uncle’s) name on the monument, not even trying to find it, not even looking for it, not even knowing where he fought in Europe,” said Pavlove. “I contacted my mom to verify the information, and she did.”
Upon their return to Belgium, Pavlove and her family wanted to know more about her great-great uncle. They contacted the Passchendaele Museum to find out if they had any further information. Pavlove said the museum has a long waiting list typically to get in, but because of their short visit, they were able to jump the line and retrieve the information they were looking for.
“Through that, we found out about a special walk they had had for the 100th anniversary of the battle of Passchendaele, and we met a local guide who walked with us around the area,” Pavlove added.
From there, Pavlove and her family were invited to attend the British 100th-anniversary ceremony at Tyne Cot Cemetery where Prince Charles, Prince William and Princess Kate were also in attendance.
Legion Video Contest 2017 – How We Remember
Grade 4 Breslau Public School
“It was a very moving and humbling experience, but also a very different experience from when we just went on our own as well. It was really unique to be there as Canadians, amongst the British ceremony,” said Pavlove.
While on the trip, Pavlove and her family learned of the different events and ceremonies taking place for the 100th year anniversary. Such as the 17,000 poppies placed around Tyne Cot Cemetery with handwritten messages and an archway where people were encouraged to leave handwritten messages, later to be engraved onto identity tags.
When Pavlove returned to Canada with her family, she wanted to share with her grade four class the things she had learned while on her trip.
“(I shared) with my students, around Remembrance Day, some of the events we attended and saw, especially sharing the story of my uncle. The students were very interested and inspired and asked if maybe they could try to do a project,” said Pavlove.
Together, she and her class brainstormed ideas for different things they could do to commemorate and learn more about Remembrance Day. Pavlove said the first thing they did was, using postcards they had received from the Elmira Legion and wrote messages to send to Passchendaele for their Canada night.
“We all wrote messages and sent them, and they were shared during the torchlight ceremony. That was really special for the kids,” said Pavlove.
“In our research, we had learned green and red were the colours that Canadian soldiers had worn in WWI. They chose 16 because that represented one for every thousand casualties at Passchendaele and the 24 represented the number of years that great- great uncle was alive,” said Pavlove. “It was very moving to have the students come together as a group and decide to do this. The hanging, not only was it on display at our school but proudly on display at the John McRae Museum in Guelph as well.”
Pavlove and her class wanted to find a way to involve the entire school in their Remembrance Day activities, so they had 700 poppies made up and staff and students were invited to write messages on the poppies. The poppies were first on display in front of Breslau PS, later moved to the Elmira Legion for their Remembrance Day Ceremony, then finally the poppies went to the Woodlawn Memorial Gardens.
“They have a Veterans section in the cemetery, so the poppies were placed in between the tombstones for their Remembrance Day service as well. I found it extremely moving to see. It really reinforced a lot of things,” said Pavlove.
Throughout their learning and different Remembrance Day activities, Pavlove thought it would be a great idea to document their journey through video clips. When they had learned of the video contest the Elmira Legion was putting on, Pavlove gathered the video clips and other messages they had written to put together a short video for their contest submission. Pavlove’s class had no intention of winning anything, and they wanted to do the video just to show what they had learned and the importance of Remembrance Day.
“The kids were thankful to be able to give back to the community, but also really appreciate the support they got from the community as well,” said Pavlove. “They wanted to remember the soldiers and the Veterans and all those who were affected, particularly by Passchendaele.”
When Pavlove and her class found out they had won the video contest, she said her students were extremely excited.
“The students were very excited to have the chance to enter the contest. They were very humbled by the whole experience. They had no expectations of winning, they just wanted to share their care and commitment for what they had learned,” she added.
The grade four students were invited to the Elmira Legion to receive their award for Best Remembrance Day video. The students even got a fully guided tour of the Legion where they were able to see pictures and newspaper clippings, furthering their learning of Remembrance Day, the military and military Veterans.
“I just hope that this experience will be long lasting and at Remembrance Day, they can always look back and have a lot of fond memories and think that it is possible to make a difference in various areas, big or small,” said Pavlove.