Memories from one of Canada’s first women to serve in the Second World War

WINNIPEG — Jessie Lovas is modest about her service to Canada, but the fact of the matter is she played a key role in the country’s history – she was among the first Canadian women to serve overseas in the Second World War.

The 97-year-old veteran volunteered to join the Women’s Division in the Royal Canadian Air Force when she was in her twenties.

The division was created on July 2, 1941, and was the first of its kind in Canada. Lovas was one of nearly 17,000 women who joined the division.

“I wasn’t scared; it was a big adventure as far as I was concerned,” Lovas said. “I wanted to do something different; if you stayed with what you were doing you never would get to see the world. You stay in the same darn place all the time.”

Lovas, who now lives in Roblin, Man., said she is starting to forget some of the details, though some memories of war are still vivid – memories she said she has tried to forget.

“We got bombed by the Germans,” she said. “We got bombed by them, and I had one good friend that was killed.”

Lovas had been working at the War Records Office in London during the bombings. The office was dark, with only a light above her to see what she was doing. The door was locked – no one got in and no one was supposed to get out, she said.

But one night, Lovas said her friend took the key and slipped out of the office.

“She didn’t go very far, and a bomb came over and killed her right on the spot – I never forgot that,” she said.

It’s been 75 years since the Second World War ended in September 1945, though Lovas said it doesn’t feel like it.

“There was a big parade – big everything – the day the war ended,” she said. “(I felt) relief. It’s over, let’s get on with our lives.”

Her granddaughter Shelly Lovas said she has heard the stories growing up and now shares them with her family, especially around Remembrance Day.

Jessie Lovas

“Grandma was always willing to tell the stories,” Shelly said. “I wish I knew more about her time and what it was really like – I am proud of her.”

“She was a brave woman willing to do what she could for her country.”

Lovas is much more humble about the years she gave to Canada.

“It was a long, long ago – after all those years you find out you are forgetting things and you think, ‘well maybe people a lot younger than me are forgetting’,” she said, adding sometimes she thinks younger people don’t believe the stories from the war.

But that is one of the reasons Shelly said her grandma’s story is important.

“To remind people of what our grandparents went through, and what it was like for them,” she said. “I think people who don’t have a personal connection to it don’t understand or know what it was really like for soldiers.” 

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