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Gray Academy students singing “The April Wind”, composed by former Gray Academy student Vadim Dreyzin while he, himself, was a participant in one of the first Marches of the Living. (l-r): Nesya Greaves, Ethan Levene, Zahra Slutchuk, Sophie Braunstein, Samantha Waldman. You can watch a video of the students singing at http://jewishpostandnews.ca/categories-media/71-local/240-the-april-wind

By BERNIE BELLAN
On Monday, October 15 a special event marking the 30th anniversary of the March of the Living was held in the Berney Theatre of the Asper Campus. Gathered together that evening were former participants on past marches, along with friends and family members, as they listened to stories about the march and watched a film about it.

 

 

The idea for March of the Living came from two Israelis: Avraham Hirschson and Dr. Shmuel Rosenman. Their idea was to create an educational program which would bring students from all over the world to Poland, where they would see for themselves remnants of the Holocaust. Following one week in Poland marchers have then traveled on to Israel for another week.

Since 1988 over 250,000 high school students from countries all around the world have participated in the march, which sees students walk in silence between the death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau. The actual march always takes place on Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day). Students from Winnipeg high schools have been among the marchers from the time of the very first march.

(l-r): JESSICA COGAN (a participant in the very first March of the Living, in 1988); Morris Henoch, who has accompanied Winnipeg high school students on every single march since 1988; and ROBERTA MALAM, who has been responsible for organizing Winnipeg students on the march since 2002.

Roberta Malam who, since 2002, has been responsible for organizing the Winnipeg students who have participated in the march, explained how Winnipeg became connected to the march from its earliest days.
Years ago, Malam noted, the Superintendant of Jewish Education here was someone by the name of Baruch Rand. According to Malam, Rand had been reading an Israeli newspaper one day when he came across an ad giving information about what was to be the very first March of the Living. Rand got in touch with Avraham Hirschson, thus paving the way for Winnipeg students to be among the very first marchers.

Together with the students there have been thousands of adult marchers as well, including Holocaust survivors, although as the years have gone on, inevitably there have been fewer and fewer survivors going on the march.
Among that first group of marchers was Jessica Cogan, who was living in Edmonton with her family at the time (and who went on the trip with the contingent from Winnipeg). Cogan, who is President of the Jewish National Fund Manitoba-Saskatchewan region, has also been on the march since then with one of her own children and says she will be returning again when her younger children reach high school age.
 Laurel Malkin, who is currently President of the Jewish Federation, also told the audience that she herself had been on the march in 2012.

In 2004 Morris Faintuch accompanied marchers. While in Poland he took some of the marchers to see what was once his family home there.
In 2006 survivor Robbie Waisman went on the march and showed other marchers the secret location where he and others had made weapons to fight the Nazis.

One very special person who has been associated with the March of the Living since its inception has been Morris Henoch, the son of Holocaust survivors, who has accompanied thousands of Winnipeg students on the march over the years.
When Henoch was called up to say a few remarks, he found himself welling up in tears, saying “I’m so blessed for being able to do this for 30 years. I only wish I could do it for another 30 years.
“I told my grandson Noah that when he goes on the march he will be able to push me in a wheelchair.”

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