Dark past focus of docs

It is now the site of a high school, but a Vernon field was once a place of hardship for hundreds of people.

From 1914-20, McDonald Field, next to WL Seaton Secondary School, was an internment camp during the First World War for men, women and children mostly of Ukrainian descent.

It was one of 26 camps across the nation.

Actor and filmmaker Ryan Boyko, of Armistice Films, produced a series of short documentaries on the internment camps, and last fall he was in the North Okanagan to feature the Vernon camp.

The series is now being released with the first episode of 'The Camps' featuring the internment camp near Mara Lake.

Episode two focuses on the Vernon camp.

Glenda Kohse is a direct descendant of Vernon internees.

“My grandparents and my uncle were all interned here. My uncle came here as a three-month-old baby and spent the first six years of his life looking through barbed wire at these hills behind us,” Kohse says in the documentary while walking through MacDonald Field.

Kohse said her grandmother made friends with a local woman who supplied her with milk for the baby.

“It's just a really harsh way to start your life off,” said Kohse. “There was no explanation given. They took away their livelihood; my grandfather had boats, they took that away and he never got them back.

“I would like the kids to understand this happened here. It's not just a playing field. There is a lot of history here.”

Andrea Malysh, program manager of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund, said a digital map of the camps has also been created online.

“You will be able to click on the map and view a particular story,” said Malysh. “There are some very horrific stories from the internment camps. Our beautiful parks have kind of a dark history.”

Malysh explained many internees were forced to work on creating Canada's national parks, such as Yoho and Banff.

“They actually helped build the Parks Canada project with free, forced labour,” she said, adding Mount Revelstoke Park was also build on the backs of internees.

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