The final event of the eighth annual two-week Peace Days festival was held this past Sunday at The Fort Garry Hotel.
The Diversity Runway is a fashion show where historical and current clothing along with accessories from different cultures are modeled by local adults and children. The show highlighted the diversity, strength, inclusion, respect, and equality among all citizens.
During the show, model Linda Connor carried an old, light brown, wooden suitcase that once belonged to her mother, Linda Hiie. The sturdy case held all of Ms. Hiie’s personal belongings when she entered Canada as a Displaced Person at the end of World War II.
During the second World War, millions of people were forced from their homes when their countries were invaded. Because they had nowhere to go, Displaced Persons Camps (DPC) were set up to shelter the then classified stateless people.
After the war, the surviving refugees faced uncertain futures. But with the help of many international organizations and government initiatives, the majority were relocated to other countries.
Ms. Hiie, a young girl at the time, lost her mother when Russian troops bombed her home country during their illegal occupation of Estonia. Her father was later interned and killed in Siberia. Alone and classified as a Stateless Person, Ms. Hiie spent the rest of the war residing in a Displaced Persons Camp.
After the war ended, with the help of the International Red Cross, Hiie was one of numerous stateless refugees who was offered a two-year contract to live and work in Canada. She chose to move to Winnipeg because she remembered learning in school that Winnipeg was the centre of Canada.
After settling in Winnipeg, Ms. Hiie eventually acquired her Canadian Citizenship. In 1991, she also regained her Estonian citizenship when her birth country finally regained its independence from the Russian occupation.
An anonymous person donated the case to the Manitoba Museum several years ago. When researching the case, the museum curator discovered the true owner’s identity and its historical significance. The suitcase still bears Linda Hiie’s name and the markings of her displaced person status coming to Canada after the war.
On Sep. 24, those who attended the Peace Days Festival event, had an opportunity to see this historical accessory up close during the Diversity Runway show at The Fort Garry Hotel.
For more information about Peace Days Manitoba, other upcoming events, how you can get involved, visit their website at: