Alex Polowin, who lied about his age to fight Nazis in Europe, dedicated his life to peace and education

Alex Polowin
Ottawa veteran Alex Polowin in his apartment, wearing the Sovereign Medal for Volunteers pinned to the left side of his blazer, during a virtual presentation ceremony Friday April 23, 2021. (Photo by Aaron Polowin)

At 98, Alex Polowin, one of Canada’s most prominent Second World War veterans, passed away at his home in Ottawa. He was the last surviving veteran of HMCS Huron, who, after the war, spoke regularly to thousands of people across Canada and Europe about his experience as a 17-year-old Jew fighting Nazis. He saw action on D-Day and served in the Soviet Union and Northern Scotland; he helped sink a German battleship; and he even charmed political leaders, including Queen Elizabeth, with his gentle humour and harmonica skills.

In his twilight years, he became good friends with The CJN Daily‘s own Ellin Bessner. The two forged a bond, particularly during the pandemic, which isolated Polowin, alone, in his home.

On today’s episode, Ellin remembers Alex Polowin’s life and accomplishments, and you’ll hear from a few family members—as well as former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, who worked closely with Polowin, and spoke at his funeral in mid-August.

What we talked about:


The CJN Daily is written and hosted by Ellin Bessner (@ebessner on Twitter). Zachary Kauffman is the producer. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Production assistance by Gabrielle Nadler and YuZhu Mou. Our theme music is by Dov Beck-Levine. Our title sponsor is Metropia. We’re a member of The CJN Podcast Network. To learn how to support the show by subscribing to this podcast, please watch this video.