Lawrence Sayese

Metis veteran suffered his share of pain

By Jane Brown

Reprinted with permission from
Saskatchewan Sage - November 1996 - pg. 6

Lawrence Sayese

Two of the most traumatic events in the life of Lawrence Sayese were shared with prisoners. A veteran of the Second World War, now enjoying a full and active retirement, Sayese was wounded in Italy and returned home to Saskatchewan where he eventually took a job at the Prince Albert jail.

Sayese lived in Glen Mary, Saskatchewan, north of Kinistino. He was 24 years old when he enlisted in the army, but had been in the militia for two years when the war broke out.

His first regiment was the Saskatchewan Horse Regiment 16/22. In the First World War, it was all cavalry. Later, it was renamed the 20th Armored Regiment.

"I spent 13 months in Labrador in 1941. When we went overseas, we all dispersed. I was with the 49th Edmonton when we landed in Italy in 1943."

On May 24, 1944, the young infantryman took a shell in the ankle. His memory of the events of that day are fading, but he still remembers a lot of the details.

"We ran into a dugout and a guy was hit in the backside. We found one guy dead in a wheat field. We were peeking around the corner of a house and, all at once, it was like my leg got burned. I looked down and saw the blood. They hauled me into the barn and cut my shoe off.

"They took me to the hospital in the same ambulance as a German prisoner who was hit in the neck. We teased him about being the master race and even though he understood English, he didn't answer us. He went to the POW hospital."

That was the last day of active duty for Sayese. After spending time in Canadian hospitals in Italy and England, and then a convalescent hospital, the war ended just as he was about to return to France.

"I was a proud Canadian and still am. If it wasn't for the rest of us who helped to free the country, so to speak, who knows? I'm proud of our way of living."

Many years later, after returning to the farm in Kinistino and then working for the Department of Natural Resources for 21 years, he got a job at the Prince Albert Correctional Centre.

"I was caught in the 1977 riot in jail on June 21. Two of us were taken hostage. You feel kind of funny -- your own people. I felt I was a prisoner. They put a towel over our heads and took us down to the lower level. There was water up to our ankles. Then they took us to the second floor into a cell with some others. They threw us some kolbassa and told us to eat.

"The guys were drinking Valium. It was red and dripping down their chins. That's when I got kind of scared. They kept me all night, but kept the other guy longer. They never harmed me. Afterward, I had to go back and forth to court, but I didn't tell who the leader was, not to this day."

Although he never had children, Sayese married twice, in 1946 and 1979. He is now a proud grandfather of his wife's grandchildren. His second wife, Alice, worked in Prince Albert for the Department of Indian Affairs at a halfway house.

The Metis veteran has been able to overcome bad experiences and upleasant memories because of his faith, his attitude and his ability to lead an active life.

"You've got to have a positive attitude. If you have that, instead of the other kind, and keep busy, you'll be fine."

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