Last week, Holocaust survivor Eva Olsson visited Vermilion, giving talks at local schools. She travels throughout Canada & the United States, & has shared her message of peace & acceptance with thousands of students, teachers, & community members. Oh, & she just turned 92!
During her visit, I was presented with an incredible opportunity; an opportunity that won’t be available to the next generation. As a teacher, I was invited to join Eva for dinner before her evening presentation at Lakeland College. Of course, I jumped at the chance.
But how does one go about preparing themselves to meet someone like Eva Olsson? &, what does one say upon meeting her?
- What does one say to a lady who directly suffered under the Nazi regime, a regime that you so passionately teach your students about, explaining that we must learn about history, & that we must pay attention to history, so that these events do not happen again?
- What does one say to a lady who was not allowed to learn to read & write until she was a 20-something living in Sweden because of her fundamentalist upbringing?
- What does one say to a lady who found acceptance & happiness with her husband, then had to stand by & watch him suffer for over a year before passing away, after being struck by a drunk driver in Ontario?
- What does one say to a lady who is a real life, flesh & blood example of why your Grandfather joined the British Royal Marines all those years ago?
- What does one say to a lady who possesses degrees of humanity, strength, & dignity that people of my generation cannot begin to imagine?
One says, “Hello, Eva. It’s so nice to meet you. Thank you for sharing your message with my students today.” Then, she will take your hand, & smile. You’ll drink tea, & hear about her grandchildren, & listen to stories about the students she has met in her travels, & the letters she has received from people who have been impacted by her actions. You’ll sing her “Happy Birthday” because she turns 92 tomorrow, & then you’ll share a piece of Black Forest birthday cake.
You’ll attend her presentation & hear her testimony. You’ll bear witness to a first hand account of horror, & cringe at the graphic images on the screen in front of you. You will never forget how her voice cracks when she says, “Every day is my Remembrance Day.” And you will remember why your job is so important.