Marie Donais Calder has authored a series of books based on real people, centering around her father, Edmond Joseph Donais. The genre of the series is YA historical fiction. They are being published by Borealis Press of Ottawa, Canada. The first five books are set in the city of Leer in northwest Germany between July 1945 and July 1946. Marie’s Dad, Ed, was stationed there as a member of the peacekeeping force. His regiment was the RCEME – Royal Canadian Electrical Mechanical Engineers. Her Dad enlisted as a volunteer in 1942 when it was believed that Hitler was likely to win the Second World War. He volunteered to serve his country leaving his wife, Frances, and their three little boys behind in Alida, SK. He was sent overseas in early 1945. Upon arriving in enemy territory just two months after the war ended, Ed met a little ten-year-old German boy, Johann. Ed did not see Johann and his family as Nazis. He only saw a little boy and his starving family. They bonded immediately. Although Johann and his family were starving, they shared their meager food portions with Ed, whom they called Eddie, every Sunday evening. Marie’s Dad soon found ways to get food to them. Marie’s Mother went to Germany in 1998 to meet the only remaining member of this family. She told Marie's Mother, “It was by way of Eddie that we were to be fed.”
This series of books illustrates the best in humanity. A Canadian soldier in enemy territory assisted a German family, much to the consternation of some of his army buddies. Ed was not bothered by the opinions of others. He needed a family to help fill the loneliness he felt for his wife and three small sons. Life in the army and on the other side of the world from home was almost unbearable for this family man. The Schmidt family relied on Ed for many things. He brought laughter and joy into their dark world. They had not supported Hitler but they “were powerless to stop the madness.” They were caught in a lose-lose situation.
In addition to joy and laughter, Ed brought hope to the family who had suffered horrendously at the hands of their own people as well as at the hands of the Polish. They were made to dig a hole in the ground in their own backyard to live in during the war. Polish officers used their home as a headquarters. The Schmidt family lived in this shelter for almost a year. Terror ruled their lives. Eddie changed that to the best of his abilities during the year he spent in Leer. He did everything he could to help Johann and his family.
The remaining books in the series are set back in Canada when Ed returns from Germany. He is a torn man. He knows the Schmidt family will be vulnerable to abuse once again. His fears are realized as indicated in a letter from Karla, Johann’s sister, in November, 1946. “The Polish are back now. The good times have passed."
Eddie is returning to a wife he hasn’t seen in years and to three young sons who don’t even know their own daddy. We learn how difficult life was for families after years of separation. They had no phones, no cell phones, no email and no web cams with which to communicate. They only had letters that were being censored. These letters often took months to reach their destination. Ed’s family struggles to rebuild their lives as a family unit. It was after the war, in 1948, that their first daughter was born. Her name is Marie. Three more children were born to Ed and Frances. This is their story too.