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Edmonton students to commemorate Battle of Vimy Ridge online after COVID-19 cancels their trip

Click to play video 'Virtual Vimy Ridge celebration for students whose travel plans were grounded by COVID-19' Virtual Vimy Ridge celebration for students whose travel plans were grounded by COVID-19
WATCH ABOVE: Two Edmonton students who won a prestigious award to attend the 103rd anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge were forced to stay home due to COVID-19. Nicole Stillger has more on how the day is being marked during the pandemic – Apr 9, 2020

A pair of Edmonton students are supposed to be in France right now, commemorating the 103rd anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Like many students, however, they’re at home.

Anuj Krishnan and Linda Kemigisha are two of just 20 students to win the Vimy Pilgrimage Award.

“[Today] should’ve been the last day of our trip,” explained Krishnan, a Grade 10 student at Old Scona Academic.

The students were selected to go out of hundreds of applicants from across Canada. The fully-funded program takes teens to Belgium and France for a week leading up to April 9 to study Canada’s contribution to the First World War.

The trip was put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was looking forward to it quite a bit,” said Kemigisha, a Grade 12 student at Strathcona Composite High School.

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READ MORE: Remembering the Canadians who served in the First World War – the ‘war to end all wars’

Even though they are home, they still take time to remember the sacrifices Canadians made.

“We should reflect [on] that, and the way we can do that is by honouring their legacy,” Krishnan said.
Anuj Krishnan and Linda Kemigisha.
Anuj Krishnan and Linda Kemigisha. Courtesy: Vimy Foundation

Vimy Ridge Day ceremonies across the country look a bit different this year.

The Vimy Foundation hosts various activities around this time, like visits to cenotaphs.

Celebrations have now mainly shifted online.

“It’s really been trying to continue to have the spirit around Vimy day, but in a very, very different atmosphere,” said Caitlin Bailey, the Vimy Foundation’s executive director.

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She noted that many people have been engaging with commemorative posts on social media.

“It has a very new resonance for people,” Bailey said.

“I think at this point, all of us are trying to find some sort of little piece of hope and calm in everything that is going on, and Vimy — for many people — represents that.”

As for the Europe trip, there are plans to reschedule it for November, depending on the coronavirus situation.

While the visit won’t coincide with Vimy Ridge Day, the students said that won’t change the meaning.

“I think it’s very important we learn about every aspect of, not just Vimy Ridge, but World War One in general,” Kemigisha said.

Krishnan said it will be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“It’s an experience that I know I’m not going to waste,” he said.

“I wouldn’t be living a comfortable life today, even in quarantine, without the sacrifices they made back then during the First World War.”