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Spotlight put on dark internment camp history at Vernon school

Drama class presents Seeds of Hope, tales from Vernon’s own Ukrainian and European camps

Students at a local high school had no idea what horror took place on the very land their classrooms rest on more than 100 years ago.

W. L. Seaton is located on property that was one of 24 Ukrainian/Eastern European Internment camps during the First World War.

“It’s really horrible and absolutely devastating what these people had to go through,” Grade 11 student Mais Cesario said. “And one of the saddest parts is that very few people actually know about the internment camps.”

But after learning the history of what is now known as MacDonald Park and the secondary school, 12 of Seaton’s drama students created a play to share the history of the land. Called Seeds of Hope: A Story of Ukrainian Internment in Canada, the show is streaming Feb. 12-15 through

This is the second showing, following a quietly announced first-show in January put on by the school drama class, better known as 27th Street Theatre Company.

“I think it’s important for people to know what happened here in our town. Especially when a high school is now situated on the property of where it stood,” said Grade 12 student Emma Beadman, who plays the Observer. “The history was forgotten and now it’s time for us to bring it back to light.”

Seeds of Hope tells the story of this little known history from three perspectives: those imprisoned, those responsible for the camps from local authorities to the Canadian Government, and the citizens of Vernon with their varying points of view.

“It is of the utmost importance, now more than ever, that we reflect on our past and realize that change needs to happen,” said Madison Irwin, Grade 12, who plays an interned woman in the Vernon camp, and was a lead scriptwriter for the show. “These events were despicable and continue to happen around the world every single day.”

Under the direction of teacher Lana O’Brien, recreating the stories of the camps which were in place from 1914-1920 took several weeks.

“I had no idea about the internment camps in Vernon until I was apart of the show. It shocked me to learn about the true horror that had occurred over 100 years ago, and how they are still happening around the world to this day,” Grade 12 lighting operator Fraser O’Brien said.

Grade 12 student Delaney O’Brien, who played a citizen of Vernon who was in favour of the camps hopes that the play will spark some change in at least furthering the education of the hushed historic events.

“I was quite upset to learn that there was an internment camp on the property where I go to school. The fact that this isn’t a historical event that is acknowledged in social (studies) class is unacceptable. We need to know where we come from. I hope that after seeing this play, Vernon schools will teach their students such an impactful part of Vernon’s history.”

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Seaton Secondary’s 27th Street Theatre Company presents Seeds of Hope: A Story of Ukrainian Internment in Canada, streaming Feb. 12-15 through (27th Street Theatre photo)

Jennifer Smith

About the Author: Jennifer Smith

Vernon has always been my home, and I've been working at The Morning Star since 2004.
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