Democracy is near and dear to the heart

Dear Editor:

Learning from history helps us make wiser decisions that affect our future in more positive,

constructive ways.

There is no progress in repeating mistakes. Recently two experiences in our beautiful city brought back vivid memories of unforgettable times of change in my life.

First the B-17 bomber Sentimental Journey that visited us. In 1944 when I first saw them, hundreds of them flying at me, over me, they were the embodiment of trepidation. My parents and I were fleeing from the Communist army towards the Western allied forces hoping to be captured by them.

Our paths often led through cities that were the targets of the B-17’s. We, homeless refugees, were not the enemy, but from their high altitude we were undistinguishable from the enemy. When I told this to the crew of the B-17, I was treated like a special guest, a survivor, a veteran who saw these planes in action.

I flew over Penticton in a plane designed to kill me, but now I sat behind one of the 50 calibre machine guns next to the bomb bay. For me it was a significant closure of a war fought to defend democracy. We read names of heroes from Penticton on the cenotaph by our courthouse.

The second event that triggered memories of the same war was the headline about the waterslide in Skaha Park: “A Done Deal.”

Preposterous! I remember  in June 1940 waking to strange trucks and tanks with a red star, patrolling our streets in Riga, Latvia. Our national flag replaced with the hammer and sickle of the Soviet Union. “A Done Deal” Stalin’s Communist Party had taken over. We had feared that.

What could we do?

As a five-year-old I shot a sling shot at a group of Russian soldiers way out of range. It felt heroic. There were those who welcomed the change. We would now be in the protection of the mighty Soviet Union.

We were taught Communism was a philosophy of equality. More changes followed, like collectivization of farms, nationalization of industry; efficient comrades in government made all decisions. If you didn’t like it, that was too bad for you, your wealth, health and life itself.

 A year later, the hammer and sickle was replaced by the swastika – another change some people liked. But when Communists were about to retake Latvia in 1944, we fled in the hope of finding democracy somewhere in the world. We did, and now I hold it near and dear in my heart.

Has change brought about authoritatively ever been for the better?

 Harry G. Kapeikis

Penticton.