Vimy Week Stories - Abrielle Burrs

Date published:

April 7, 2024

Gatineau, QC 

7 April 2024

Dear friends, peers, relationships too numerous to mention,

Words cannot express how I feel since my coming back from the Beaverbrook Vimy Prize. Seven months after this life-changing experience, it still feels like it was yesterday. Not a day goes by where I do not think about my time in Europe. No matter how distanced in time I will be with the BVP, I do not believe that the memories will ever lose their vivacity.  Frankly, I still have not fully processed my experience. It is interesting how emotions can play with you and present themselves in the most unexpected way. There are times when a memory is triggered, and I start reliving everything but only in a much stronger way. As I am slowly processing, those moments appear to present feelings that I had not experienced during the program.

At times whilst away, I felt as though deprived of emotions, not knowing exactly what to think. The reality in Europe is that no matter where you go, war will have left scars. There are still bullet holes and bunkers. I felt immersed into a reality bigger than me. It is hard to put into words the sight of seeing more Canadian flags than the visited countries’ flags. Other times, I felt disturbed, triggered by the magnitude of war. During my first day, I remember seeing a cemetery on the side of the road. I assumed it was the one we were going to visit. It was not. War cemeteries are simply everywhere. Whilst walking through the rows of graves, I remember feeling physically sick. Sometimes, you could actually feel something in the air.

Before leaving in August of 2023, I remember telling myself how this opportunity would change my life, how it would forever change my perspective with regards to the world wars. However, I never quite mulled over what this change would consist of. Before, I used to cling to war’s positive side and focus mainly on victories and propaganda. Today, I think about the suffering, the hardships, and the loss: “Imagine every person standing in front of their grave and giving them a hug.” This was told by one of the incredible chaperones, and it is a thought that will forever stay with me. I have come back from Europe a new person and will never see the world in the same way. Since coming back, I feel different, different as an individual, as a student, as a citizen.

Through the BVP, I have finally put my hand on something that was previously unknown to me. I have discovered my purpose. My purpose is to remember, to carry their torch and never forget. It is to promote and preserve the past. Remembrance will be my life’s service. It is an act of sharing the stories that were not told at the time, and of helping others. Service is a deed of necessity, of duty, and contributes to the betterment of our society. Remembrance is one of the most, if not the most, crucial actions one can take. Remembrance brings peace, love and banishes chaos as it prevents the repetition of certain patterns. It brings unity, and more perspective, especially amongst youth. They were young, as we are young. The only difference is that they were born decades ago, in a world at war. Remembrance assures that students can further understand the world in which they are living today, and that the luxuries we take advantage of did not simply come to be. Service is a gift to our communities, but it is also a tribute to the fallen.

Back in Canada, however, I was choked by the distortion in historical memory amongst youth. A few weeks ago, I held a kiosk at my school where I was hoping to share my experience. No one came. Although demoralizing it was, I am now more than ever determined to do more. 

The BVP was the climax of my life. I am forever changed and will dedicate my life to history. 

Sincerely yours,

Abrielle Burrs


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Pick up our Vimy Foundation Hoodie and Tartan Socks together in this limited-time offer! A cold weather essential and an excellent gift! Our Tartan Socks were made in partnership with Friday Sock Co, a Calgary-based business, to create custom socks using the Vimy divisional stripes while our cotton blend hoodie is the same one used by our participants in their journeys across Belgium and France!

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Dogs have been used in war for centuries worldwide. Their duties have ranged from pulling carts, sentries, scouts, messengers, as mascots, rat catchers in the trenches, search and rescue, bomb detectors and first aid dogs. Countless stories of incredible heroic acts performed by these animals have been told throughout the First World War and beyond. Dogs continue to be put to work in military service to this day as their role expands to include service animals for veterans. The Vimy Foundation partnered with Dog Hair INCluded (Montreal) to design these quality and durable bandanas featuring our Vimy Plaid. Honor those four-legged friends who also helped shape our history with this rugged and stylish pet bandana.

Vimy Foundation Pet Bandana

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Walter S. Allward: Life & Work chronicles the artist’s life from his formative years in Toronto working for the architectural firm Gibson and Simpson to his success as a leading sculptor. The book explores Allward’s early works, including the South African War Memorial in Toronto (1904–11), the Baldwin-Lafontaine Monument on Parliament Hill in Ottawa (1908–14), the Bell Memorial, commemorating Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone in Brantford (1909–17), and the Stratford War Memorial (1919–22), before discussing how the artist turned his talents toward the Vimy Memorial, an icon of Canadian sacrifice and a legacy for future generations. About the author Philip Dombowsky is an Archivist at the National Gallery of Canada. He holds an MA (Art History, Concordia) and a Master of Library and Information Studies (McGill). Dombowsky has curated numerous exhibitions for the NGC Library and Archives, most notably in the area of book design and illustration. He is the author of Index to the National Gallery of Canada’s Exhibition Catalogues and Checklists 1880–1930, which won the Melva J. Dwyer Award in 2008.

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