Sunday, October 7, 2012

Souviens-toi: Remember

Every first Sunday of October since the year 1948, there is a ceremony held in the village of Lageon. It commemorates the French resistance members of the region who were deported to Nazi concentration camps and died for their country. About two weeks ago, the history professor brought it up with our class and asked if anyone would volunteer to read a text in front of the congregation. She was looking for several students. I, being a France-loving exchange student, told the professor I was interested in volunteering, and she was happy I chose to do so.
Six of the kids in my class volunteered: Noémie, Ophélie, me, Adrien, Alice, and Nina.

There were four different texts, and we split up into partnerships. Adrien and I read the poem "Demain" by Robert Desnos, and these are the lines I read:

Mais depuis trop de mois nous vivons à la veille
Nous veillons, nous gardons la lumière et le feu
Nous parlons à voix basse et nous tendons l'oreille
À maint bruit vite éteint et perdu comme au jeu

Because I couldn't find an English translation for the poem, I will do my best to translate the stanza I read here:

But for too many months, we've been living in the past
We watch over, we keep the light and the fire
We speak with lowered voices, and we prick up our ears
To many a noise quickly extinguished, and lost as in a game

Here is a picture of Adrien and me reading!

I've had many an experience speaking in front of a large group of people, but this experience was different. I was speaking in French. I was speaking in an event that was very patriotic, as the following pictures show. I felt very proud to participate in something so important to my host country, honoring individuals who took great risks being part of the Resistance, losing their lives in World War II. The English professor told me, "I'm amazed at what you're doing," and the French professor said, "I think it's the first time we've had an exchange student participate in this."
Why I chose to participate, I'm not entirely sure; the best reason I can give is because I love my host country almost as if I was a native, and I just wanted to do something in return for it, even something as little as reading a stanza of a short poem.
Not to start talking about war again, but I thought of how in history class, you only ever learn of the numbers of people who were tortured and killed in war. If I stayed in Tualatin, I would be taking IB European History junior year, and it would probably have been the same. Just learning of the thousands and thousands, thinking of the figures as shadows, not really seeing the gravity of all those mortalities. In one part of the ceremony, names were read off of young members of the Resistance from the Parthenay/Bressuire area who gave their lives for France. After each name was read, "Mort pour la France" (died for France) was solemnly stated. Being there, hearing those names, made the events of the war only feel so much more real.
Right now, please take a moment to remember everybody who died for their country, in any war, in every country. They deserve to be honored, and they have all my respect.

And now it's time for pictures!

This is the monument in Lageon commemorating the French resistance deportees, where the ceremony is held every year.

The translation: "To the deported Resistance members who died for France."

The names, and where in the area they were from.

The cute primary schoolers of Lageon, who participated as well; they placed flowers in front of the monument.

And just as a final word...
Vive la France! 

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