Storytelling school

Saskatchewan. city ​​honors veterans with banners and storytelling

All along the highway leading to Saint-Walburg, tall red banners hang two by two from telephone poles.

Each banner bears a veteran’s photo, along with their name and where they served.

For this city, it’s a way of honoring people who have served and keeping their stories alive for a new generation.

Gabriele Trotzuk recalls the first time she saw a draft banner for veterans three years ago during a visit to Battleford.

“When I saw them, I had to stop on the side of the road,” she said. “It stopped me dead and I realized how much more impact it had to see a face rather than just knowing that ‘oh, yeah, it’s Remembrance Day.'”

In 2021, she decided to bring the project back to St. Walburg and get some friends involved.

They encouraged families of veterans to sponsor banners for their loved ones and collected community donations to sponsor them for veterans with no family nearby. Once the banners are up, they remain on display for four weeks at a time, leading up to Remembrance Day.

Driving through the city and looking at the faces is an indescribable feeling, Trotzuk said.

“I don’t even know how to explain it, it just gives me goosebumps.”

This year, as the Banners return to St. Walburg for the second time, the response from the community has been “just amazing,” she added.

“We have a Facebook page, the St. Walburg Veterans Banner Project, and new members are joining all the time. Families are so scattered across Canada and elsewhere, so this is a way for them to connect with the project. “

Trotzuk uses the Facebook page to share each veteran’s life story – their connection to the community, where they served, if they returned home. These stories were also printed in a booklet and shared with students at the local school.

Through this project, the city has also rediscovered moments of local post-war history.

“Maple trees were planted after the Second World War, in honor of veterans,” said Mayor Nancy Schneider. “And what Gabriele found is that there’s only one of those trees left in St. Walburg. So we’re going to splice it and start a new tree, to continue honoring veterans.”

Over the past two years, the Veterans Banner project has become “a big thing in our city,” Schneider said.

“Everyone loves to hear the stories. There’s a lot of noise around town, and everyone can’t wait to see the streamers. People come from a lot of different places to watch them.”

Although many St. Walburg veterans are no longer alive, Schneider said the banners help ensure they will never be forgotten.

“These people were really important,” she said. “They were important to our city, and they were important to our country.”

This year, the town, which has a population of less than 600, has unfurled nearly 60 veteran banners. Almost everyone in town is connected to at least one, and often more, of the veterans depicted.

“I’m very proud of the project,” Trotzuk said. “It’s not to glorify war or anything like that – I’m all against war – but it’s just to understand what happened and what these men and women gave up.”

Julia Peterson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix