Nova Scotia

Statue honouring Nova Scotia woman, who hid Allied airman from Nazis, unveiled

Hundreds of people crowded into the small park in front of Wolfville's post office Friday afternoon for the unveiling of a bronze sculpture of Mona Parsons.

Mona Parsons escaped her prison when the camp was attacked by allied forces in the Second World War

Local artist Nistal Prem de Boer, who is Dutch, designed the sculpture. (Steve Berry/CBC)

Hundreds of people crowded into the small park in front of Wolfville's post office Friday afternoon for the unveiling of a bronze sculpture of Mona Parsons. 

The joy is almost too much to bear, the 2.4-metre sculpture's title, is lifted from a letter Parsons wrote to her father when the Netherlands was freed from Nazi occupation.

The Wolfville Historical Society and The Women of Wolfville community group rallied support over the years to make the sculpture a reality. 

Mona Parsons grew up in Wolfville but was living in the Netherlands during the Second World War with her Dutch husband when she was caught by Nazi forces hiding Allied airmen in her house just outside of Amsterdam. (Submitted by Andria Hill-Lehr)

Parsons is depicted wearing traditional Dutch footwear, or clogs, as her thin form dances in front of an old oak tree in the park.

Local artist Nistal Prem de Boer, who is also Dutch, designed the sculpture.

22 years in the making

The unveiling was a day 22 years in the making for author Andria Hill-Lehr, who first discovered Parsons's remarkable story and brought it to light in her novels.

Andria Hill-Lehr is an Annapolis Valley author who wrote a book on Parsons's life. (Steve Berry/CBC)

"She was the only Canadian female to be imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II, because of her efforts to help allied airmen who were shot down of occupied Netherlands," said Hill-Lehr at Friday's dedication.

"She was willing to put everything on the line including her life for what she believed in."

Since the release of Hill-Lehr's books, Parsons's story has been turned into a documentary and even a Canadian Heritage Minute.

Parsons was born in Middleton, N.S., and raised in Wolfville. She married a Dutch millionaire and moved to the Netherlands, and it was there that she was found aiding allies by the Gestapo, and charged with treason.

Parsons was sentenced to execution by firing squad, but her courage in the face of death lead the Nazis to recommend that she appeal the sentence. She did, and won, but was sentenced to toil away for the rest of her life in German work camps.

A lucky twist of fate

In 1945, Parsons escaped her prison when the camp was attacked by allied forces. She walked 200 kilometres across Germany, using her acting skills to hide her Canadian accent. She weighed only 86 pounds when she found Nova Scotian soldiers, who by a lucky twist of fate, knew her and acted with her in Wolfville.

Parsons had no documentation to prove she was Canadian and it was these men who confirmed her identity so she could return home to Nova Scotia.

"The six degrees of separation are only one or two in Nova Scotia," said Hill-Lehr.

She plans to take her self published book across the country, visiting independent book stores to share Parsons's story.

"I don't know that there are enough words in the English language," said Hill-Lehr when asked how it felt to see the statue finally unveiled.

"The joy was almost too much to bear."