When I take my granddaughter for walks in her stroller we often make our way through Vimy Ridge Park near her home. There is a statue of a young man there that always attracts my attention. He is crouched down, his hand stretched out and he looks so concerned and kind.
I found out the man is Andrew Mynarski the son of Polish immigrants to Canada. He grew up in Winnipeg and attended elementary school and high school here. Andrew joined the Canadian Airforce when he was 25. He had been working as a leather cutter since age 16 when his father died and he needed to help support his family- his mother and five siblings. He is described as a quiet man with a good sense of humour who enjoyed woodworking. He liked to design and build furniture.
On June 12 his airforce crew was setting out on their 13th mission over France when Andrew found a four leaf clover in the grass by their plane. He insisted on giving it to his good buddy Pat Brophy who was a rear gunner on his crew.
On the mission their plane was hit and the pilot ordered everyone to bail out. Andrew was just about to jump with his parachute when he noticed that his friend Pat was trapped in the back of the plane. Instantly he turned away from the plane door and crawled on his hands and knees through blazing hydraulic oil to help Pat. By the time he reached his friend his parachute and uniform were on fire.
Andrew grabbed an axe and tried to smash Pat free but it was hopeless. Pat kept telling him he should just jump and get out. Finally Andrew did. French villagers found Andrew but he was so badly burned from trying to save his friend Pat he died a few hours later.
Pat however survived. The explosion caused when the plane hit the ground blew Pat safely away from the wreckage and he was rescued. Later he told the story of how his friend Andrew had tried to save him and Andrew was awarded the Victoria Cross for his courage and kindness.
Andrew’s statue makes me think about what a horrible thing war is. That a caring brave young person like Andrew had to die is such a tragic loss. I think about the contributions a man of Andrew’s character could have made to his family and community had he lived. It makes me so sad.
When I push my granddaughter’s stroller by Andrew’s statue I always say a little prayer that she will never experience the tragedy and sorrow of a war.