CÔTE-ST-LUC- If things had played out differently for Côte St-Luc City Councillor Ruth Kovac, life could have been a lot different.
“I’m a daughter of Holocaust survivors. I was born in Amsterdam,” she said at the city’s annual VE-Day celebration. “The Canadians were instrumental in liberating Holland, so this is a very special, emotional day for me.”
Victory in Europe Day, known as V-E Day or VE Day, was the public holiday celebrated to commemorate the date when World War II allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany, ending the war in Europe.
The end of the Second World War took centre stage on the island of Montreal, as a similar ceremony celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic, as the Allied forces began to gain the upper hand.
“It was the most consequential war in world history,” said Ian Sheridan, a U.S. consul in Montreal who attended the Côte St-Luc event. “It had the most number of casualties, it changed the world, it rearranged the political social and economic order of the world.”
Nowhere is the effect of the war more apparent than in Côte-St-Luc, with a Jewish population around 70 per cent and a robust number of veterans.
“A lot of citizens here in Côte-St-Luc had family there that they’ll never see again,” said Frank Levine, who served in Belgium and the Netherlands during the Second World War.
Levine worked in communications during his time in the war.
“The fellow who took my shift at six o’clock received the typewritten message that the war was over,” he said. “I offered him fifty bucks for the message! But he wouldn’t listen,” he added, laughing.
As ceremonies like these take place, the number of Second World War veterans gets smaller year by year. But a smile can still occasionally crack the weathered faces of the ones who hold on, like Solomon Susser, a former air gunner.
“This is part and parcel of the Second World War,” he said. “I feel happy… we have the freedom we were looking for.”