Italian city commemorates Canadian soldiers who liberated it from the Nazis
TORONTO -- Canadians marched into an Italian city Wednesday just as they did 75 years ago at the height of the Second World War.
Residents of Ravenna, in the northeast of the country, spend every December 4 commemorating their liberation from Nazi control by Allied forces – something thousands of Canadians took part in.
This Dec. 4, 75 years after the liberation of the city, locals gathered for a remembrance ceremony where the Last Post was sounded for those who gave their lives so others could live in freedom.
Fifteen Canadian veterans who fought in the Italian campaign sat in a former battlefield among the graves of fallen comrades at Ravenna War Cemetery, where 438 Canadians are buried with 1,000 Commonwealth soldiers.
“Many Canadian soldiers became honorary figures in the city of Ravenna, and also the memory of those days is very strong,” Ravenna Mayor Michaeli Di Pascali told CTV News.
The battle for Italy was a brutal, 20-month campaign which saw nearly 6,000 Canadian men die to push back the Nazis.
“And they did it because they share the values that we all share here, values of liberty,” Gov. Gen. Julie Payette said at the ceremony.
Guido Ceroni, whose family took in a Canadian soldier for three months, told CTV News that the connections forged during that time remain deeply “linked.”
Canadian veteran William Stoker of Peterborough, Ont. was present during the liberation in 1944 and returned for the 75-year anniversary.
“We’re brothers, we’re friends, we’re allies,” he said, speaking of the connection between Italy and Canada.
The memories, “not pleasant,” remain strong for returning veteran James Summerside.
“It was something I wanted to do, I’m very fortunate that I was blessed and able to come,” he told CTV News.
Nova Scotia student Salma Khattab won an essay contest to attend the ceremony.
"I've learned so much just being at the remembrance ceremonies, talking to the veterans who have amazing experiences to share,” she said.
“The overall experience has been mind-blowing.”
Italian students, waving miniature Canadian flags, also attended in large numbers.