Good leaves. War upsets everything, lives, destinies, trajectories, geography. It breaks families, twists time, transforms individuals, fragments societies, damages and shapes souls forever. I was 7 when World War II broke out and I have no memory of how I learned about it. I guess I had to consider this event as another in this poor family that had already experienced so much hardship. At the end of 1939, my father enlisted in the French army, out of pure patriotism, when nothing was asked of him and he was no longer so young. To choose, when one is a Polish Jew, to fight for a country that has only been one’s home for a handful of years may seem incredible. But it’s typical of those immigrants who wanted to give back to France what it had given them, even if, in our case, it hadn’t given us much.
After a few months of phoney war, with the approach of the Germans, the French government decided that the families of soldiers should be exfiltrated by train. So we found ourselves, my mother, my two sisters and I, in Berry, in a hamlet called Drulon, near Loye-sur-Arnon. The choice of Berry was made by administrative decision. We were given gas masks and sent there without further explanation. I don’t remember being worried, being afraid, or maybe I preferred to forget it. We first landed in a barn of total discomfort, where we slept on straw before being accommodated in a small house without water or electricity. A few months later, my father was demobilized because of his age and an illness from which he suffered. (…)
I have very precise images of my years in Berry. After the barn, our daily life improved a little by moving into this tiny house in Loye-sur-Arnon. (…) I was a young child at that time and it was all like a vacation in the countryside. Although divorced from my mother before the war, my father came to join us in the village. I still have a photo of him in which he is dressed as a peasant, the weight of his body leaning on a spade in a field. He then left for Toulouse.
“Did my father really realize the danger we were in? I’m not sure of it “
We sometimes welcomed in this place located in the center of France, at the confluence of all the movements of displaced people, cousins and cousins, more or less distant members of the family who were stopping over before leaving for other destinations. For the Berrichon peasants who observed us, we were exotic. I don’t know how we lived, we slept on top of each other, we ate local products…
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