Alex Polowin is preparing to return to Normandy, France on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Polowin was 17 when he joined the Canadian Navy; against his parents’ wishes. By 20 year of age Polowin had served on three battleships, including the HMCS Huron. Polowin manned his 'A-gun' for more than 6 months and helped sink the famed Scharnhorst German battleship December 26, 1943. The thrill of victory, however didn’t last very long.
“Bodies on the ship and bodies off the ship in the water and that kind of made me feel terrible; but that's a part of war and war is a very, very cruel thing to happen to anybody,” said Polowin.
Polowin has made more than 200 visits to students at schools in Ottawa over the years; recounting stories of sacrifice and triumph. Polowin said his greatest memory is the camaraderie which still exists to this day; spending time with crewmates, he considered family.
“I think the feeling of togetherness, that you’re all here and you all went through something dangerous and tragic and are still here; it's a wonderful feeling, “There was sort of a mystique with what war was all about; all you knew is you got to do something for your country because everybody else is doing it.”
With very passing year, Polowin and colleagues, who walk slower than they used to and notice a few more wrinkles on their face are reminded of the time they were very much full of life.
“And I start thinking of the young smiling faces and they haven’t aged and suddenly we have a reunion and I see people with double chins and triple chins and i see myself in them and it becomes realistic.”
Mr. Alex Polowin is 94 and a Canadian hero who served his country at the age of 17 during WWII in Normandy - he’ll be returning to those grounds next week on the 75th anniversary of D-Day @ctvottawa pic.twitter.com/rMkrU4hY0T— Mike Arsalides (@MArsalidesCTV) May 31, 2019
Three quarters of a century since Polowin served in the Canadian Navy, Polowin said he is honoured to return to Normandy and he'll have his trusty harmonica in hand; playing songs he promises will bring tears to everyone's eyes.
Polowin, feeling older than he used to, said the trips to Europe bring him a sense of purpose and excitement.
“Right away they feel you're their friend, you're their saviour, you're many things to them, women come up and kiss you on the cheeks, some will come up and kiss you on your hand. It's a great feeling; and a sad feeling is the day it all comes to an end and you come back to earth,” said Polowin.
Back to the hallowed grounds, go Polowin and his old friends, where war was waged 75 years ago; changing the world and Canada forever.