Saturday, September 12, 2009
"The Germans were bad, but the Russians were worse. I was at least given a choice. Fight with the Nazis. Prison camp. Work crews. Naturally I chose the last option. Roads. Bridges. Storage buildings. Temporary camps. Our poor Latvia. If we could just wait it out. But then things turned against Adolf, on several fronts. Russians were in the wings, and stories of bloodshed, fire, humiliation. We could see the growing disillusionment in the squareheads. The fleeting looks of fear when they thought no one was looking. So one night after lights out a few of us headed for the trees..."
This was the most I had ever heard Rudy talk. Carpenter and general handyman at the London YMCA. He had come up to join us in summer pre-camp. Beausoleil Island. Georgian Bay. Together four of us had rebuilt the trolley incline from the docks to the Main Lodge and Dining Hall. Basically we carried the materials. Rudy built the track. Firm, resolute use of his hand tools. Big hands that would dwarf mine in a greeting.
It was only June and the nights could be cold. We were in the staff lounge with large windows facing the westering sun over the open water. Hot teas in hand...
"It's hard for me to piece together all movements out of my country and eventually to London, England. I met my wife there, also Latvian. I continued to work with my hands. My degrees in agronomy proving of no use, and carrying no weight in other places. Eventully my wife and I heard of another London with growing prospects - in Canada..."
This man was a fascination to me. Tall but not overweight. Clear pale eyes. Straight gaze. Often smiling broadly. Never laughing. From him I heard of a war scene quite different from my father's in the R.A.F. from Scotland over the North Sea.
There were other times around the "Y" when I worked with Rudy, part-time or during the summer. He knew that I was a green "college boy", but he was patient and did not dumb down his instructions figuring that I was observant enough to catch on.
Of course for me at that time education was everything. Here was a man who had walked away from his through necessity. Never a hint of bitterness or regret. Always a thankful and proud word for Canada. Yet his country of choice only knew him as one of the "blue-collar ones".
In later years I would remember his fine example.