‘A lot of all-nighters’: Winnipeg student creates massive D-Day diorama

When Alyssa Anklewich’s history teacher assigned her Westwood Collegiate class an essay about D-Day, the 15-year-old had other ideas.

“I don’t really like essays, so I thought I’d bring up doing a diorama and see how much my teacher likes it.”

When he gave her diorama the go-ahead, Anklewich’s teacher was likely not envisioning the free-standing, intricately designed final product the tenth grader produced, complete with functioning lights, sand, barbed wire, faux foliage, military vehicles, navy ships, a smoking fighter plane, and of course, soldiers.

Unsurprisingly, it took Anklewich nearly a month to complete the massive project showing the Juno Beach landings.

“There were a lot of all-nighters,” she told CTV News Winnipeg.

Alyssa Anklewich’s D-Day diorama is pictured on June 3, 2024 at Westwood Collegiate. (Scott Andersson/CTV News Winnipeg)

She had some company in the wee hours as she glued down gobs of sand – two different types, to be exact.

Anklewich’s parents pitched in, starting by helping her to build the diorama’s frame that looks like a miniature twin bed.

She based the diorama on historical photos of Juno Beach she sourced from Minto Armoury and the archives at the Canadian War Museum. It is perhaps an understatement to say the diorama is detailed, down to the specifically stormy waters on the River Seulles.

“In the articles and pictures, we see how rough the water is and we see whitecaps, so we tried our best to encapsulate it in the water here,” she said.

(Scott Andersson/CTV News Winnipeg)

Anklewich used insulation foam to create the grass, Christmas village homes from a dollar store to replicate the sleepy, waterside houses in Courseulles and one extra special detail.

“This is a rock from Juno Beach,” she said, picking up a small stone.

“My teacher gave it to me to help me out throughout the project and give me that nice little motivation to get me through it because it was hard. It was really tiring.”

Anklewich and her family’s work paid off, with the project complete ahead of the 80th anniversary of D-Day, which falls on June 6.

The teen, who loves history, says the project gave her a greater appreciation for what the 14,000 Canadian soldiers who landed on the beach that day experienced.

“It was terrible. It had to be,” she said.

“The rough water conditions. Germans are shooting at them from their pillboxes 10 minutes away. Some of the landing crafts not even fully getting to the shore, and it’s already been destroyed, and they’re trying to get up the beach too.”

– With files from CTV’s Scott Andersson

(Scott Andersson/CTV News Winnipeg)

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