In truth, I confess that I never paid much attention to Mother’s and Father’s Day, perhaps due to the commercialism and false sentimentalism. As I grow older I am more attentive, especially this year of the pandemic, and more and more appreciative and respectful of my own mother and her strength, and the value of life. On her passing at the age of 93, we said “she moved the earth.” And to the other mothers in my family! Sarah, partner of son Nick, “super mom,” thoughtful and indefatigable. They have three growing children, 2, 5 and 17. The love of the children is unconditional. Courtney, son Marty’s partner, is an American, with a gracious personality and intelligent insights on the murky US politics. All the women of our extended family have a great independent spirit and sense of justice. My former wife raised two fine young men, all the while working in a hospital for a livelihood and participating and leading in her trade union and progressive politics. Four generations of women on my late mother’s side were creators, fine artists, graphic designers and writers. Some are single mothers, who personify the exceptional courage of the single mom, as they had to take care not only of their life but of future life. Some singlehandedly raised children who were disabled, while my oldest sister has been the anchor for our younger brother, also disabled, and my youngest the rock of her late husband, infirmed with serious health issues. Yes, mothers are real heroes in our country for whom we have much social love. I would love to have more such women with us!
“The Veteran. WWII” – award-winning portrait by Peggy Seed, 2003
May 9th is also Liberation of Europe Day. Canadians of Russian origin organize the March of the Immortal Regiment to proudly celebrate the peoples’ historic victory in the anti-fascist war and commemorate those who gave their lives for peace, freedom and democracy. Participants bring portraits of relatives or others who took part in the anti-fascist war to honour their contribution as well as Soviet flags, banners and a giant ribbon of Saint George (used in high military decorations in Russia and the Soviet Union). As many as 2,000 participants gathered in Montreal and 1,000 in Toronto in 2018, for example. Today, this anniversary, held under conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic, took the form of a car rally. This initiative has an added significance, coming under the most difficult circumstances of state-organized attempts to marginalize them, humiliate them and extinguish their being. Every minute of every day Canadians and women of Russian, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Arabic and Muslim origin suffer the indignity and humiliation of the pressure that they must overtly prove that they are worthy Canadians by accepting what are called “Canadian values.” They are supposed to prove through every word and action that they are opposed to the governments of their countries of origin, moderate, not extremist; civilized, not medieval; democratic, not lovers of authoritarianism, theocracy, terrorism and all kinds of other buzz words on the basis of which reaction tries to criminalize belief, culture and being. One Russian woman I met had been forced to pass as Ukrainian in order to work for RBC while others had rightly refused.
Knowing that this is the case, the anti-fascist initiative takes on even greater meaning. It gives expression to social responsibility, to defend their dignity as human beings in the most profound sense of what it means to be human and Canadian, in the true sense which recognizes that being Canadian means to accept all languages, cultures and beliefs as equal and the contribution of all human persons as essential to the well-being of the society upon which they depend for their living.
Jack Seed, HMCS Wallaceburg, Royal Canadian Navy
Amongst the millions of those from the peoples of Europe, Asia, Africa and the entire world who contributed to this historic victory was my late father who served in convoy duty during the Battle of the Atlantic, including escorting the convoys to Murmansk. Politically a conservative, he never had an ill word to say about the Red Army and J.V. Stalin whom he respected from afar. Our mother, whose two brothers also fought in the war, commemorated the Canadian veterans, who numbered some 1.1 million, of whom more than 44,000 lost their lives and 54,000 were wounded, in a poignant portrait, “The Veteran”.
Such respect and principle, the friendship between two peoples, can never be forgotten nor erased by the crude falsification of history, which attributes the war jointly to Nazi Germany and the USSR and goes so far as to deny the courage and sacrifice of the Soviet Union under the leadership of J.V Stalin in the defeat of the Hitlerites. The peoples that made up Soviet Russia and the Soviet Republics rose as one and broke the back of the Nazi war machine at tremendous cost. All of them fought for peace, freedom and democracy so that humanity would never again know the scourge of fascism and war.
For me, thus unity is personified by an early 1943 painting commemorating the visit to the USA and Canada of the famed woman sniper, Lt. Lyudmila Pavlichenko of Ukraine – her total of confirmed kills during World War II was 309, including 36 enemy snipers. In speeches across America and often before thousands, the woman sniper had made the case for a U.S. commitment to fighting the Nazis in Europe, which Stalin had repeatedly requested and which the Anglo-American powers refused through much of the war and before – during the 1930s. And in doing so, she drove home the point that women were not only capable, but essential to the fight. In Chicago, she stood before large crowds. “Gentlemen,” she famously said, “I am 25 years old and I have killed 309 fascist occupants by now. Don’t you think, gentlemen, that you have been hiding behind my back for too long?” Her words settled on the crowd, then caused a surging roar of support. In Canada she was presented with a sighted Winchester rifle now on display at the Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow. While visiting Toronto along with Vladimir Pchelintsev (fellow sniper) and Nikolai Krasavchenko (Moscow fuel commissioner) they were greeted by thousands of people. This reception reflected by the painting by Paraskeva Clark signalled the people’s demand for the opening of a second front in Europe and iron unity in a just cause. This cannot be denied.
Lieutenant Lyudmila Pavlichenko and her comrades at the Toronto City Hall | 1943 painting by Paraskeva Clark, Ontario Gallery of Art.
It seems to me that Mother is a timeless book that unites both events of May 9th! I downloaded a copy and am popularizing it by sending it by e-mail to all the ladies. The famous novel of revolutionary conversion and struggle. This novel of Russia before the 1905 Revolution is without question the masterpiece of Maxim Gorky, Russia’s greatest living writer, whom I first read at the age of 16. Into one passionate, astonishing book has been gathered the spirit of the heroic struggle against the Tsar’s autocracy. In it the people of Russia stand forth in a flood of light. His novel perfectly shows how the revolutionary spirit, the desire for a new life, arose among the workers. This unquenchable spirit is embodied in the impassioned defence by oppressed humanity of the cause of peace, freedom and democracy in today’s conditions.
On May 9, let us profoundly honour the memory of all those who fought to defeat fascism by working to make Canada a zone for peace, opposing Canada’s political and economic integration into the U.S. war machine and opposing the use of force to resolve conflicts between nations and within nations.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms today, those who are with us, and those who left us.