THE WORLD WAR II INTO CHILD EYES
It’s a soft winter evening, the sun is going down. I can feel, this prickly January cold wind. I open the door of the typical Briton house. Inside, fire in a hearth creates a warm atmosphere. I can hear the fire crackle skimmed the boiled chestnuts. I can smell orange peel and cinnamon which are slowly cooked in the mulled wine with my grandfather behind the stove. He smiles when he see me and invites me to sit on the cozy sofa with a cup of mulled wine. The dog is lying near the hearth, trying to warm up of this cold winter day, he looks at me few seconds and put back peacefully his head on the wood floor. My grandfather takes some old photo album and books. His blond hair became white since a while but his smile and the joy in his eyes never grow old. He takes his glasses and said, « Now we can start. ».
UNLUCKY OR UNCONCIOUS?
« Start by the beginning, when the germans arrived,» he said showing me old pictures. My grandfather, Henri Denieul was born in 1930 in Evran, a village lost in the heart of Brittany, surrounded by pasturage. When germans arrived in May 1940, he was only 8 and lived the most sadly famous years of 20th Century History.
His first though when he thinks to the invasion was to his father, Joseph Denieul, 41 in 1940. « I remembered that my dad was working in the Arsenal of Rennes as a civil worker when germans arrived… » It’s noon, Joseph and his colleague are going to lunch in a restaurant near the Arsenal. Alphonse is talking proudly of the new tools that he bought. Joseph his making fun of him, It’s just insignificant tools…
It’s almost the end of the break, Joseph and his colleague had to go back to work. The restaurateur alarms them « Germans are coming! » Joseph and his colleagues thank restaurateur. Joseph did 40km by bike to arrived in Evran where my grandfather, his brother, and sister was happy to see him before germans.
Alphonse goes back to Arsenal to pick up his tools first. He tries to find it quickly but it was spread all around the room. Suddenly, he hears a locker noise. He runs until the doors trying to open it. Too late, germans closed it. « Alphonse was imprisoned until 1945 in Czechoslovakia » Conclude Henri laughing.
I’m questioning why is he laugh, it’s not funny? He answered me that these tools don’t matter what happened to him, so it’s as much sad than it’s funny. « Life hang by a thread » He conclude.
WAR IS NOT A GAME FOR KIDS
When germans arrived, some hours after Joseph, in this straightforward village of France, everything was disrupted. One of the main thing that leave its mark on my grandfather was the school. Indeed, when germans arrived the school was requisitioned. Two of three class moved into the church and the last one in an abandoned house. All children get back together for the break around the church. « We were all playing around the church when one of my friends found something that looks like a big ball. Everyone was curious and look to it. Then, the teacher calls us to come back into class. We will play later and my friend throws it away near the church wall. We all jump by surprise when we heard the big ball explode, creating a little hole in the wall. It was a grenade. We were all lucky that didn’t explode in front of us.» He sadly said.
I feel that this story especially touched him when he realized, that war was everywhere even on the playground. My grandfather is probably too shy to show how much it’s affected him. I try to know more about his feeling but he avoids the question, trying to keep good memories on sad events. It looks like he always wants to detach himself of its own story. I ask him: Do you have good memories of war? « We can’t have good memories but we don’t have sad memories too, we just deal with it. »
THE SOUND OF WAR
It could look like an American action movie today but 74 years ago it was everyday life. In 1943, in the land of Dinan, a plane battle broke out between germans and Americano-English. «I remember that I was in the garden of a friend of my father, Leopold, when we heard plane fighting. » Henri said. Above the little Henri, there are Americans with an enormous squadron. Henri tries to recognize Americans plane. Leopold explains to Henry that they took off from the United Kingdom and there are here to free them. Lost in their contemplation, they are wake up by the whistle of bullets around them. « Come back into the house, it’s dangerous » said Leopold. Henri continues to watch the battle by the window scared but with admiration for Americans. Suddenly an American plane is falling and exploded before touching the ground. Henri worried, what happened to them? None of the Americans inside survived the crash, Henri learned some days after.