In the middle of October 2013, Viv and I received in the mail a file, sent by Bob Atkinson’s widow Karen Mackenzie. The file, Karen said, held drawings that Bob had told her, “were from some German prisoners of war in a camp near Medicine Hat.”
In the Autumn of 1971, Bob Atkinson, Paul Nedza and I, all employees of Medicine Hat College, started Repository Press. I left the college nine months later for a job in Prince George, and Bob followed a few years after that.
During World War II, the Canadian Government housed over 34,000 German Prisoners of War in 25 camps across Canada. Camps for refugees were already in existence before the POWs arrived. There was such great urgency to find places for these people that in both cases the settlement happened before the terms of agreement had been signed with Great Britain.
After a whirlwind morning in the blazing heat of an Ethiopian winter, we stopped for lunch in an unpainted, cow-dung building. I blinked rapidly until my eyes adjusted to the dark interior and then flopped onto a straight-backed chair. My aching body enjoyed the coolness of the room.
Red-lentil stew and spiced cabbage was served for lunch, which I eagerly scooped up with injera, the local flatbread that is used like a spoon. My bowl was barely scraped clean when our guide told us it was time to go.