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My name was Denise Blasselle, and I was born in 1932, so at the time of the
World War II, I was 12 years old. My father was in the French military as a career soldier, with the 1st Infantry Regiment. We left Autun in Saone et Loire for Cambrai in 1935. In 1940, my father was taken prisoner by the Germans when he was in Belgium, and from there, he was taken to Pomerania in Germany for 5 years.
In April 1944, after surviving the horrors of the bombings, we are welcomed in Blecourt in May, where we lived for 5 months, waiting for the "Liberation".
It is in the beginning of September that it happened: Here is the story of the
"Liberaton" at Blecourt as I remember it.
On June 6th, we learned of the landing of the Allies in Normandy, and we were very happy about this, as we knew that Liberation was near at hand. On 14 June, Blecourt was bombed, renewing in us, that the horrible fear that can't be explained. High explosive bombs had made craters everywhere. Madame Marthe's garden was unbelievable, but the house was not damaged.
My mother, ever cautious, forbid me to go out to find out what was going on in the village. I heard our neighbors talking about the wounded and lots of dead cows, which had to be butchered later. Quietly staying at home, spared me from seeing all of the horrors that go along with war.
The next day, or maybe the day after, we learned that those poor cows were brought to the Norman's farm to be butchered. The restriction of my going out, having been lifted, I went to the make-shift slaughter house, and I remember that the sad spectacle didn't move me.
One of the animals was hoisted with heavy ropes, and the butcher and his helpers were doing their work, just like my grandmother, when she killed a rabbit. What was different, was the size. I was impressed! Everybody was happy-"There will be meat for everybody." That magic sentence had gone around the village, bringing good cheer.
At the end of August, rumors are circulating - The American are coming fast - very fast. With joy, we saw the few Mongols, who had been enrolled in the German army, leaving the village where they had been stationed.
On September 1st, The great news!! They are Here!
They are Here!!
The Americans were coming though the village la Boulette. We were all on the road, walking fast, even running. Pretty soon we were going to see "them", the one's we had been talking about for so long.
The Americans! They're here! On some enormous tanks, as big as bulldozers.
They were all tall, with helmets and guns. They were smiling, waving their hands. Some of them were black, "niggers" as we called them then, not meaning to be insulting - and that really astonished my little sister, who had never seen black people.
"Why are their faces all covered with soot?" she asked. Those "niggers" with their dazzling smiles were soon to become, "The Black Americans".
Me, I was stamping my feet, the joy was catching, and I was saying over and over and over, "Vive la France! Vive la Liberte! Vive les Americains!"
All of the church bells were ringing! They were singing! They were laughing! What a beautiful concert!!
And yet, everything could have turned into a disaster if the SS had come back through Blecourt. It could have been a tragedy, like in Rieux-en-Cambresis - thirteen people savagely massacred - Our fate could have been the same.
My mother was crying bitterly. The war was over for us, but Claude was no longer here, and Daddy was still a prisoner in Germany, and hadn't been heard from in months, very long months!
I was totally happy. The "budding woman" that I was at this time, was dying to get picked up by one of those great guys! Innocently, I raised my arms up and soon my wish was granted - my face crushed on my hero's cheek. Sweat was pouring from his forehead. I kissed him gently, a kiss tasting of salt. I wanted to talk to my "Liberator". I told him that "My father was a prisoner" and he answered, in English, "He'll be home soon."
He was already gone away, followed by many others, so many others! The noise of the tanks was making our bodies shake! It almost made me sick to my stomach. The ground was shaking, and our ears were terribly assaulted. "Vive les Americains!"
Yes, I didn't know that with them, progress was going to come into our country, turning our customs ands habits upside down. Nothing would ever be like it was before the war.
Those unique vacations were coming to an end. We had to go home.
I had forgotten how to study and going back to school was hard. We had kept in
touch with our professors in Cambrai, a volunteer, Monsieur Charlet, brought and
took back our homework.
In Blecourt, a teacher, Francoise, had a class going in her dining room around the table. We owe her a big "Thank You!"
Even if intellectual performances were stationery, we learned to live with nature and the animals.
Today, it would be called living ecology and green tourism. Call it what you want.
I didn't leave Blecourt like it was, just a vacation place. I went back often shyly, not visiting anybody, except for Laurence. Each time that I went back to Blecourt, I went to Rue du Four, and took the little path going to Sancourt, to Madame Marthe's garden and little house.
Then, I didn't know how to say "Thank You" for so much generosity, but today I want to make up for it and write with all my strength and intense emotion:
Mme. Denise Blasselle-Truffier
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