75th anniversary of V-E Day

    Canadian soldiers celebrating V-E Day, Piccadilly Circus, London, England, on May 8, 1945. (Lieut. Arthur L. Cole/Canadian Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-176695)

    Captain (Retd) Andre Sochaniwsky CD, for New Pathway – Ukrainian News.

    On the 8th of May we celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, generally known as V-E Day. On 8 May 1945, Nazi Germany unconditionally surrendered to the Allies of World War II.

    Adolf Hitler, the Nazi leader, had committed suicide on 30 April 1945 during the Battle of Berlin and Germany’s surrender was authorised by his successor, Reichspräsident Karl Dönitz. The military surrender was first signed 7 May in SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) at Rheims, France and then a slightly modified document was signed on 8 May in Berlin.

    The signature of German Col. Gen. Alfred Jodl is shown on an original VE Day “Instrument of Surrender,” signed on May 7, 1945, at Allied headquarters in Rheims, France, to end the war in Europe. (Reuters)

    Upon the defeat of Germany, celebrations erupted throughout the western world. More than one million people celebrated in the streets throughout Great Britain to mark the end of hostilities in Europe. In London, crowds flocked to Trafalgar Square and up to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony of the palace before the cheering crowds. In Toronto, thousands danced in the streets while three Mosquito aircraft dropped tickertape overhead. Most Canadian cities and towns held religious services of thanksgiving. Though the major threat of Nazi Germany had ended, the war with Japan was not yet over.

    Members of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion in training near Manchester, October 18th, 1943. Mr. Walter Romanow is pictured on the front row, second from left Photo: the Memory Project

    In Germany, where the Canadian Army fought right up to the last day, soldiers in the front lines were too relieved to celebrate to the same extent as in the larger cities. Walter Romanow from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, who was serving with the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion recalled, “we were in Germany when we listened to Winston Churchill declaring victory and an end to all hostilities…there was a stunned silence when we finally realized that the fighting was over. Our relief was unbelievable as we acknowledged for the first time that we had actually survived the war.”

    Toronto celebrates victory in Europe, May, 1945 (Ronny Jaques/National Film Board of Canada/Library and Archives Canada/PA-114626)

    More than one million Canadians and Newfoundlanders served in the Second World War with more than 45,000 paying the ultimate price. Canadian soldiers participated in all of the major European theatres including the Italian Campaign, liberations of Holland, Belgium and France, defence of the United Kingdom, army operations and bombing of Germany and the Battle of the Atlantic. It is estimated that more than 40,000 Ukrainian Canadians served in Canada’s armed forces in World War II, approximately one in 10 Ukrainian Canadians fought for Canada. After V-E Day, members of the Ukrainian Canadian Servicemen’s Association (UCSA) and the Canadian Ukrainian Relief Bureau assisted Ukrainian Displaced Persons in central Europe. In 2020, the long- awaited Ukrainian Canadian Research and Documentation Centre documentary film profiling Ukrainian Canadians in World War II, entitled “A Canadian War Story”, will be released.

    Capt (Retd) Andre Sochaniwsky CD is the President of the Ukrainian War Veterans Association of Canada, Canada’s oldest Ukrainian Canadian veterans’ organization. He served proudly in the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1984-1997. As a volunteer with the Ukrainian Canadian Research and Documentation Centre, his team recently completed the long-awaited documentary film about first-hand World War II experiences of Ukrainian Canadian soldiers entitled “A Canadian War Story”. The film will be screened in late 2020.