PEI

Residents of WWII displaced persons camp and their families to reunite on P.E.I.

A P.E.I. woman is organizing a reunion in Kinkora this summer for people with a connection to a displaced persons camp set up in Germany after the Second World War.

Daria Valkenburg's father was taken away from his home in Ukraine when he was 14

Daria Valkenburg’s father, Wasyl Makota, at Camp Ohio circa 1946. (Submitted by Daria Valkenburg)

A P.E.I. woman is organizing a reunion in Kinkora this summer for people with a connection to a displaced persons camp set up in Germany after the Second World War.

Daria Valkenburg's father was taken away from his home in Ukraine when he was 14, to become a forced labourer under the Nazi regime.

After the war, from 1945 to 1950, he became part of a community for refugees and displaced persons called Camp Ohio.

"He was never ill-treated by the people and after the war he ended up in the camp so that he would not be scooped up by the Soviets that were going around the countryside and taking people to Siberia," Valkenburg said.

The entrance to Camp Ohio, now the entrance to the town library, in Burgdorf, Germany. (Taras Schumylowych)

Some of the people in Camp Ohio were repatriated back to their home countries, but many immigrated across the world, or stayed in Germany.

"In 2005 he gave me a box of photos and he asked me if I could find out what happened to the people that were in these pictures and I asked him, 'Well who are these people?' and he only remembered the names of two people."

I guess you can equate it to things like a high school reunion except that in this case, if you were very young, you're now in your 70s, if you were an adult, you're in your 90s.— Daria Valkenburg

Valkenburg began searching for information and eventually created a website about Camp Ohio. She discovered Camp Ohio had a sports team, youth group, women's group, an elementary school, churches, a theatre group and literacy classes for adults — many had little or no formal education.

In 2017,  the town of Burgdorf, Germany, invited people who had been in the camp to come for a reunion where a memorial plaque was placed at the site.

"The people who went said it was like being at a family reunion and nobody wanted to leave," Valkenburg said.

"So they kept saying, 'Can we do it again but in North America?' and so that's why we decided to take a chance and invite people who had been to Germany and anyone else who we had been in contact with over the years, we invited them to come to Prince Edward Island."

The displaced people at Camp Ohio formed their own community after the Second World War. (Submitted by Daria Valkenburg)

She said they've found about 1,000 families of people who were at Camp Ohio. The reunion in Kinkora takes place July 9-12. Families from Western Canada, the U.S., Germany and Australia have indicated they'll be attending, Valkenburg said.

"I guess you can equate it to things like a high school reunion except that in this case, if you were very young, you're now in your 70s, if you were an adult, you're in your 90s —  if you're still alive — or older," she said.

"And so it's now becoming the children and the grandchildren of people who had been in the camp who were starting to show an interest."

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With files from Angela Walker

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