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World War II veteran honoured at Campbell River hospital

Island Health staff helped to honour a World War II veteran.

At 95-years-old, Campbell River’s Carl Kolonsky is one of an ever-dwindling number of vets who helped liberate the Netherlands 75 years ago.

A young Carl Kolonsky (Photo supplied by: Island Health)

He was nominated by the Dutch and Veterans Affairs Canada to travel to Holland and attend a grand celebration last month as a special guest of the Dutch people.

But, plans were cancelled when the pandemic hit.

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“Unfortunately, COVID stepped in the way,” says Kolonsky’s son, Don. “He is one of the handful that was going to go.”

To make matters worse, Kolonsky suffered a fall in May, which brought him to the North Island Hospital in Campbell River for hip replacement surgery and recovery.

Don says his dad is doing well, but pandemic-related restrictions mean the two have been keeping in touch by phone.

Shortly after Kolonsky’s fall and hospitalization, some mail came from Ottawa.

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“On behalf of a grateful nation, we present this Certificate of Recognition to Carl Kolonsky as a tribute to your selfless acts of service and sacrifice during the Second World War, in defence of Canada and our shared values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law,” said the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs.

Don thought the recognition would help to boost his dad’s spirits and help in his recovery, so he called Island Health to see if staff could deliver the certificate to his father in hospital.

“It was an amazing thing you did,” said hospital site director Christina Rozema in an emotionally charged certificate presentation to Kolonsky in his hospital room along with others of Dutch background. “Understand how grateful people are, and how pleased I am to be able to give you that certificate today.”

“It’s such a pleasure to hear from you people,” Kolonsky said. “Thank you very much.”

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Don continues to work with his father’s care team to find out how he’s doing.

Even prior to his dad’s fall, Don says home care workers were doing their part to maintain his self-isolation at home.

The Dutch and Canadian flags outside the Campbell River hospital (Photo supplied by: Island Health)

“Seventy-five years ago he was fighting a war to liberate Holland, and now he’s fighting the war against COVID,” Don said. “He’s a tough old bird.”

He adds that his father is disappointed that the trip to Holland didn’t happen, but if all goes well, it’s only been postponed.

Outside the hospital’s main entrance, the Dutch and Canadian flags were rolled out to honour Kolonsky and the special relationship between the people of the two countries.

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