Students walking behind the Envision Athletic Centre on UFV’s Abbotsford campus may have noticed an unfinished wooden trench on the green, and after months of building and preparation, it’s almost ready for business.
English professor Prabhjot Parmar, who specializes in postcolonial literature and East Asian literature and cinema, built the World War I replica trench with the help of her husband.
“It offered a perfect opportunity: 1914 to 2014,” she said, referring to the centennial of WWI two years ago. “I was teaching a course in literature and I thought, why not try and generate awareness amongst the students — a trench that is not hidden in a room, but out in the open.”
For Parmar, the trench is more than just a representation of the past — it could also be used for future re-enactment, and she has plans to do so in the future. Parmar hopes that a personal depiction and point of view of World War I will generate interest about what life was like during the war.
There are reasons why the construction has taken so long: a lack of funding, with Parmar then using her own money to build the trench, among other mishaps.
“[But] the City of Abbotsford was really good to me,” she said, adding that several businesses and members of the community helped her with the trench, including Home Hardware. The City of Abbotsford also provided the sand for the sandbags that make up the walls of the structure.
More than anything, Parmar hopes that the display will serve as a reminder of all of the lives lost because of war.
“It gets overlooked; it is shocking how many people were killed in the First World War,” she said. “You say, ‘17 million were killed’ and you move on, but [if] you focus on an individual or a letter, you will have a human factor that would otherwise just end up being a statistic.”
The trench is planned to be completed by September, when it will open as an informative display of World War I history near Parmar’s office in the portable building on the green.
“This is a small effort on my part to help people take a moment and commemorate,” she said.