The Mount Forest Museum and Archives invited guests who contributed to its exhibit entitled “In Their Words” to get a sneak peek on Nov. 9.
Open from Nov. 11 until next spring, the exhibit features letters, postcards, diaries, memoirs, official correspondence and Newspaper articles from the Boer War, and First and Second World Wars. Soldiers, their families, friends or local journalists penned the collection of written documents.
“This exhibit is about the written word,” explained museum volunteer Kate Rowley. “This collection confirms the simple power of a beautiful, loving letter, of a brave memoir and of a thoughtful and poignant Newspaper article.”
She said the exhibit delves into the stories of those who served during the wars.
“We never really mounted a show like this, that dispensed of uniforms and caps and flashy artifacts. As much as we love those, this one asks a little more of our visitors,” she said. “We wanted them to slow down, to read, imagine and listen to the voices that can indeed be heard in their words.”
Rowley thanked the special guests, who include family members and even the authors of the documents.
Another volunteer, Marlene Markle, who was instrumental in preparing the exhibit, said the written documents are “tricky.”
She said, “You read one letter and before you know it you’re just sucked right in and you cannot put that book down.”
At a young age, Anastasia Agnidis’ parents both died of unknown illnesses, leaving her and her sister orphaned.
Now 90, she lives in Mount Forest. While she suffers from dementia, Agnidis remembers much of the two years she spent as part of the Greek Resistance during the Second World War.
She lived and worked in Kesariani, Greece, a town southwest of Athens. She worked at a soup kitchen when she was recruited to the United PanHellenic Organization of Youth (EPON), a resistance group fighting the German occupation during the war.
“Because we believe in the freedom of the country, if you believe for the freedom of your country, you have to join places, to start working,” said Agnidis when asked why she joined the group.
At first, she would smuggle notes that were sewn into baskets to members. She would spy on the Germans, too. When she was brought in to sew, she would observe then report important information to the resistance.
Agnidis was only 16.
One incident has never left her.
“At the time of the Germans, I went to see my aunt and she grabbed me and pulled me in and I was hearing ‘pop, pop, pop, pop’ – the guns,” she said.
“They were crying and screaming and saying ‘brothers, we are dying free, fight for freedom.’ I hear their voices when they were killing the people.”
Agnidis’ daughter Zoe said her mother’s story connects to the May 1, 1944 killing of 200 members of the Communist Party of Greece, rebels and other prisoners who were executed at a shooting range in Kesariani.
“That is never going to go out of my heart,” said Agnidis.
Her picture was taken during the war and that photo surfaced many years later after she emigrated to Canada.
Agnidis’ niece found the photo and sent it to Zoe, who said her mother did not start opening up about the war until Agnidis was in her 70s.
Agnidis became emotional when she saw herself in the photo and when discussing the horrors she lived through.
She repeated with passion, “Ελλάδα ποτέ δεν πεθαίνει” (Greece never dies).