A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in Ottawa’s Barrhaven area, November 30, to mark the official naming of Alex Polowin Avenue.
Alex Polowin, 92, a Second World War veteran who served in the Royal Canadian Navy and is a member of Jewish War Veterans of Canada, Ottawa Post, was thrilled at what he described as a rare honour.
“I’m the only veteran who had a street [in Ottawa] named after him in his lifetime,” Polowin told the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin.
Polowin said he was just shy of turning 17 when he joined the Navy in the spring of 1942 – serving until September 1945. He participated in battles in the English Channel and, during D-Day, in Normandy.
Born in 1926 to Jewish immigrants from Lithuania, Polowin said he was well aware at the time of the atrocities Jews were facing in Europe.
“I take great pride in being Jewish,” said Polowin, who has spoken about the war more than 200 times in Ottawa classrooms over the past 20 years.
“I’d like them to know more what a great country we live in,” said Polowin about his sessions with students.
In addition to the street-naming, Polowin has been honoured numerous times for his service including being a recipient of the French Legion of Honour, the Russian Ushakov Medal, the United Kingdom’s Arctic Star, and Canada’s Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Polowin met Queen Elizabeth, then-U.S. president Barack Obama, and other world leaders when he was chosen to represent veterans in 2014 at the 70th anniversary of D-Day ceremonies in Normandy.
He remains “a navy person,” he said. “I never speak of ‘me’ or ‘I,’ but of ‘we,’ when speaking to students… I’m always speaking as a Canadian, and never say that our enemies were Germans – but only Nazis or fascists.”
Polowin served on two ships during the war – the HMCS Pictou and HMCS Huron – and notes, sadly, that he is the last sailor from either of those ships still alive.
Polowin said his family in Ottawa and Montreal keeps him busy. He still speaks to students, attends services regularly at Kehillat Beth Israel, and manages to visit the gym almost every day.
“If I had known how good getting old is, I would’ve done it years ago,” he joked. “I’m happy with my age and I wouldn’t want to be one day younger.”