Wednesday, September 17, 2014

World War Wednesdays #1

Delany Leitch worked at Backus-Page House Museum during the summer of 2013 and is now volunteering her time to submit World War weekly blog posts for us. 

If I were to ask you what your favorite subject was in school, my best guess is that your answer probably wouldn’t be History, or anything related to a subject which requires the memorization of dates, places and names combined with a great deal of writing and reflection. I’ll be the first to say that I can’t blame you there. After all, for most people the subject is not directly related to the kind of knowledge and skills required in a workplace, so it’s a generally short-lived struggle. If this sounds at all familiar to you, I am sorry to hear that. You probably didn’t have the amazing luck that I’ve had in the history teacher department, which for me was a huge factor in sparking the inspiration which has led me to where I am right now.

I’m a second-year student at the University of Ottawa specializing in history, specifically the German side of the Second World War and the Holocaust, with additional interest in the German language and Sociology. I am so thrilled to be able to say that I absolutely love what I’m studying, and I could not be more excited about this stage in my educational journey.

If what I’m studying doesn’t sound appealing to you, that’s perfectly understandable. Studying the far-away concepts of times gone by can seem at best daunting and at worst useless. This isn’t the most employable field in the world, I know. But, for just a few minutes, I’d like to get you to see the value in studying and appreciating history, and if you don’t end up joining me in perpetual research and essay writing, maybe you’ll have a better understanding of why we do this.

I’ll start off with a little story which has sparked a lot of recent pondering for me. Last Wednesday, September 10th was the 75th anniversary of Canada’s official entry into the Second World War. It was a day I had been anticipating, and was looking forward to seeing how it would be recognized. On that morning, I went to my Facebook page, as I often do, to share with friends and family the interesting and humorous historical things I encounter. I uploaded a few pictures of my great-grandfather, Verne Frank in his uniform posing with family. You can see the photos enclosed in this blog. In the caption, I mentioned what a significant day it had been for my family, and asked how it had affected other people. I expected to not receive much response, but I was shocked to begin receiving the personal family war stories of people I don’t even know well. I was incredibly humbled and thrilled that these people would take the time to send pictures and stories in response to my casual little question.

This positive reception also made me think. These people were so proud to be able to tell me of their relatives’ participation in a war that spanned the entire globe, a war which I have become dedicated to study. It made me wonder why people are so quick to be bored and overwhelmed by studying history, but asking them to draw personal questions results in an outpouring of pride and sharing. I can now say that I recognize and appreciate the immense value in establishing personal connections with the history that has shaped all of us. This lesson is valuable in any field, but in history it can make or break how someone views it. For me, having the individual stories make the big concepts I study so much more impactful. I thought as I was reading them how great it would be if all parts of history could be explored in such an exciting a  manner as if it were our own relatives’ experiences. I thought about what a difference history teachers could make if they broke topics down from the key concepts to the little people who were a part of them.

This is just a little observation I have made and been thinking about. One of the greatest lessons I have learned from this is how a momentous event like the Second World War can bring people together not only during, but many decades after the dust has settled. I can’t express enough how honored I was to be entrusted with the amazing stories I have read. This is a lifelong discussion for me and I love when people add to it. If you want to be a part of the conversation, I’ll always want to hear it. Seeing other people get excited about history makes me happier than anything, and if you’d like to know more, feel free to follow my journey!

                 Thanks for reading,
                 Delany Leitch



The Taits said...

Great job Delaney, looking forward to reading more!

Delany said...

Thank you very much!