The deepest wounds aren’t always the most visible.
Grade 11 students at Dalmeny High School (DHS) staged a powerful one-act performance on Wednesday, November 8 showing the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on Canadian peacekeepers who served in Bosnia in the early 1990s.
Each year, students at the school write and perform a short play depicting historical events as a Remembrance Day tribute.
This year, the focus was on a little-known chapter in Canadian history.
“We started out do something on World War II,” said Sandra Schatz, a teacher at DHS and a coordinator of the project.
“We’ve done several pieces related to the 100th anniversary of World War I over the past few years, so we decided to do something different.
“But as we went along, we changed the focus. We have such a large population of female students who love to act, so we thought we would shift to something more contemporary, where women actually served as combat soldiers and peacekeepers.
“We wanted it to be realistic and contemporary and to educate people at the same time.”
Schatz said they researched the conflict in Bosnia, particularly the period between 1992 and 1995, when Canadians were stationed as peacekeepers in an impossible situation.
The Canadians were part of the United Nations peacekeeping corps, which sent 12,000 service personnel into the war zone. Ethnic and religious strife between different groups in the area was intense.
The peacekeepers were not allowed to shoot back when fired upon, and were not issued any weapons or helmets. A total of 23 Canadians died in that war, and many more were injured.
So many veterans returned from Bosnia suffering from PTSD that the Canadian government finally recognized it as a legitimate injury with long-lasting effects.
“We wanted to show not only how women were part of that peacekeeping force, but also how serious PTSD is for veterans, even today,” said Schatz.
She said the students worked quickly to get the production finished in time for Remembrance Day.
“We only had 10 classes, and we also got together on Sundays,” said Schatz. “We had three or four scriptwriters who wrote successive drafts, and then we would revise it as we worked on it.”
The backdrop for the play illustrated the war-torn streets of Sarajevo.
“The set was designed for a double purpose,” said Schatz. “Our library is currently under construction, so all the bookshelves line the walls of the gym. The sets are actually hiding all the books.”
She said the first time the students rehearsed the final version of the play was only two days before their first performance.
“They worked really hard on it and we’re very proud of their accomplishment,” she said.