A forgotten past is remembered

Ceremony honours those who died in Vernon Internment Camp during First World War

Editor’s note: the following is from the Vernon & District Family History Society.

In a serene corner of Pleasant Valley Cemetery a group of five graves marks the final resting spot of some of the men who died while interned during the First World War in the Vernon Internment Camp. These men, who originated from countries Canada was at war with,  were labelled “enemy aliens.”

More than 8,500 people of European descent (primarily from the Austro-Hungarian Empire) were interned in 24 camps across Canada.  Most of the interned were poor unemployed single men, although 81 women and 156 children had no choice but to accompany their menfolk to two of the camps, in Spirit Lake, Quebec and Vernon.

The Internment Camp in Vernon opened Sept. 18, 1914 on what are now the grounds of W.L. Seaton secondary school (MacDonald Park). Prior to the camp’s existence the location served as jail for the North Okanagan from 1902 to 1904 and as the Hospital for the Insane from 1904 to 1913.

Additional camps were located in the area and men were shipped to these locations and forced to work on roads.  This included Highway 6 from Cherryville to Edgewood and the road from Sicamous to the Okanagan. The camp closed Feb. 20, 1920.

During the time of the camp’s duration 11 men lost their lives in the camp. Seven of them have been located in Pleasant Valley Cemetery. They died from tuberculosis, dysentery, pneumonia and influenza. One man was killed after a conflict with a fellow prisoner.

The men who are buried in Pleasant Valley Cemetery are:

Mile Heimovi  (d. 1917)

Ivan Jugo (d. 1917)

Timoti Korejczuk (d. 1919)

Stipan Šapina (d. 1917)

Wasyl Shapka (d. 1918)

Jure Vukorepa (d. 1916)

Samuel Vulovi  (d. 1918)

The men who were originally buried in Pleasant Valley Cemetery but whose remains were moved to Kitchener, Ont. are:

Bernard Heiny (d. 1918)

Karl Keck (d. 1917)

Leo Mueller (d. 1919)

Wilhelm Wolter (d. 1918)

The Vernon & District Family History Society has received a grant from the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund to restore the existing markers as well as install new markers and a commemorative plaque.

Please join us May 23 at 10:30 a.m. at the Pleasant Valley Cemetery, to pay honour not only to those who died in the Vernon Camp, but all those who suffered so greatly from these injustices. A reception will follow the rededication ceremony.