The picture that I have attached to this blog is the image that made me reach out to photographer and teaching artist, Lana O’Brian. The photo is an incredible piece of time travel. It was so inspiring to then discover Lana was creating a play about the issue around the historic internment issue of British Columbia, and of Canada. The little known story of Austro European people’s internment in Canada is part of my own family history. The play that Lana and her Seaton students have created uses a multi faceted digital lens to share the story in a unique online theatrical experience.
My family has a shared trauma past. I watched the musicians in my Baba and Guido’s house play the various fiddles and mandolins, and the music filled the air. The music and the aroma of rich Ukrainian food, like buttery mingled musical breezes. But there was always the other side too. The hidden hurt, anger and shame. I did not understand it. The loud words and broken English stories, tears and fist banging. I knew the stories my mom would tell us, but they seemed long ago to a small child. Under the kitchen table watching up from the wheat Baba would put under the table, I was curious, and sometimes afraid.
Now I know the side that was dark. The very place that invited them to come, asked them to be part of new Canada, fooled them. The families that came with open hearts were treated unjustly, like criminals, put in prison, made to work like slaves and called enemy aliens. This is my history.
The infrastructure of Canada was built on the backs of many new Canadians, my family, many families. I was shocked to learn this. I discovered this while researching mural history in Vernon. Now many say this was in the past, and should be left there. I disagree with my red boots on the ground firmly. The war measure act is in our conversation today. We today know slightly what loss of freedom feels like. But think, only slightly.
These people lost all their freedoms, and all their property and most importantly all their rights. In these times we are seeing the best, and the worst in people. The bullying and greed in systems that were put in place to protect us are coming to light. The veil is open. But through it all we have created a trail of sunflowers, of art and of hope.
The photo here in this blog was created by Lana, the story was created 100 years ago. The photo takes place in a high school. The exact spot of an internment camp with children in it 100 years ago. This is so poignant it makes my heart hurt.
The play that Lana and her company has created is shining light on that story. My mom got to share her stories and the stories of her pain. I will be with my mom as we watch this play together remotely. Her golden years again hit with internment, but with the light and resilience of the sunflowers that have inspired the Sunflower Project and the seeds of hope that we know better and as Canadians do better.
Thank you Lana, Thank you Pat Kozler, and thank you to my resilient fore fathers and mothers for their sacrifice for Canadians.
So get ready to plant your sunflowers, and watch the film “Seeds of Hope’.