By Zanna Linskaia
Every year on November 11 we observe the Memorial Day since the end of the
First World War to honor soldiers, sailors and airmen who gave their lives to serve
Canada in the battles between Germany and countries of Entente. It is tradition to
wear a red poppy flower on the cloths during Remembrance days. How does it
come that red poppy became the symbol of both Remembrance and hope for
freedom and peace?
During the WWI Canadian John McCrae who served as brigade surgeon for artillery
unit saw poppies in the spring after the battle of Ypres where he was wounded
while Germans used lethal chlorine gas for the first time in the war. 87,000 soldiers
were killed, wounded, poisoned or missed. He was struck by the sight of bright red
blooms on the broken ground. McCrae wrote a poem “In Flanders Fields”
dedicated to the fallen soldiers burred under those poppies. In 1915 “Punch”
magazine published his poem, and it became one of the most famous artwork used
at memorial ceremonies till our days.
Inspired by McCrae’s verses, professor at the university of Georgia and volunteer
of the Young Women’s Christian Association Moina Michael wrote her own poem -
“We Shall Keep Faith”. She vowed to always wear a red poppy as a sight of this
faith and a remembrance of the fallen heroes. After the war, she came up with
idea to make and sell red silk poppies in order to raise money for supporting
veterans and their families.
The same theme of the WWI gave fame to another Canadian writer Timothy
Findley. His novel “The Wars” became a bestseller and proto -type of the movie.
Now days there are many poppy campaigns and poppy funds by Royal Canadian
Legion with help to the veterans of all wars for serving their duties. Here are the
magnificent verses by Canadian hero who fought for freedom and peace of his and
the next generations.
“In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row and row,
That mark our place, and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scare heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead, short days ago
We lived, felt down, saw sunset glow
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.
Take our quarrel with the foe:
To you from falling hands we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high.
If you break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies glow
In Flanders fields.