Canadian D-Day survivor, 94, returning to Normandy for 75th anniversary
Published Wednesday, May 22, 2019 10:00PM EDT
One of the last surviving veterans of the Battle of Normandy is heading back to the French beach for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
Alex Polowin of Ottawa is now 94 years old - but joined the Royal Canadian Navy just before his 17th birthday all those years ago, telling CTV News that having family in Lithuania inspired him to “do his part to help end the war.”
“I was frightened deep down inside,” Polowin said. “But I hide it, I hide it real good.”
During the beach landing on June 6, 1944, Polowin was on the HCMS Huron working to keep the coast clear.
“We were … searching for enemy ships that might come down and attack our landing forces,” he said.
Fourteen thousand Canadians landed in Normandy that day in one of the most well-known events of the Second World War.
Canada suffered the most casualties of any Allied division, with 359 soldiers killed on D-Day alone and more than 5,000 killed in the ensuing months of fighting. It’s estimated that 13,000 Canadian soldiers were wounded in the Normandy campaign.
In order to ensure that the sacrifice of those soldiers would never be forgotten, Polowin began speaking to classrooms 20 years ago – something he has done over 200 times.
“I wanted to relive everything,” he said. “You sort of forget what you went through and I wanted to meet the kids and I wanted to share with them.”
His message is simple: “We need to forgive people.”
Polowin hopes that his talks with high school students will be part of his legacy, something they will “be able to tell their friends” about when he is gone, and keep the life lessons he imparts alive.
The 75th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy will be marked with activities at home and abroad hosted by Veterans Affairs and the Government of Canada.