Sometimes parents have to go with their children to help them for a choice or just to get information. I did this on Friday with one of our children and went to a show called Village des Métiers (Village of Jobs) in Vandoeuvre-lès-Nancy.
We hoped to meet company managers but, in fact, it was much more a place where schools and universities were advertising for their trainings. The choice was interesting for teenagers who don't know what they want to do later.
And there were students working in front of us. Some were using wood, tiles, others were repairing cars or were looking after cattle. And some were cooking, one student was showing how to work with almond paste and creating lovely things. We didn't stay till another one prepared macaroons, I would have really liked this.
The show was very busy, noisy, but it was interesting, especially for me to keep "updated". Last year the same show happened in Metz, that's why we didn't want to miss it in Nancy, to discover what was on offer.
Once we have finished to deal with mirabelle plums in Lorraine, we go on with quetsch plums. I checked the translation and one dictionary proposed "damson". No, a damson is round and their colour is a sort of reddish one. The quetsches are dark purple or blue with a sort of rugby ball shape.
I like using them for pies and jam, or mixed with apples for a crumble. And some years, when we get a lot, we put them in a barrel to make alcohol.
I can't help comparing mirabelles and quetsches. I love the first ones and I like the second ones very much. But I must say there is one thing I always fear in questches, they are very often "inhabited" ! I can eat a mirabelle without opening it, straight from the tree. I never do this with a quetsch plum. My grandmother, who had survived two WW and the lack of food, used to say : "Don't worry ! It is meat without a food voucher !" Sorry, Grandma, but I can't, I absolutely have to check before eating it.
On Sunday, one hundred years later, Haraucourt organized commemorative events to pay tribute to the soldiers of the village killed during this war and to remind of the Battle of Grand Couronné which ended on the 12th of September 1914.
This special day started with a mass. The priest spoke about the Cross and the crosses of all the soldiers killed during WW1. He also mentioned his Mum used to speak to him about that war. The service finished with the reading of two letters dated 1914, a woman writing to her husband on the front line and telling him their baby was dying, then a woman writing about the corpse of her brother who she recognized thanks to socks she had knitted for him.
Then we all moved to the war memorial nearby. There were three speeches, a one-minute silence, we sang La Marseillaise. The 45 names of the "children of the village" killed during WW1 were read aloud. The Préfet, senator, deputy were present with the mayor, and also firefighters, gendarmes and members of associations. All was very solemn.
In the afternoon we listened to conferences, then to music and songs and all ended with a pigeon release to remind of homing pigeons used during WW1.
One hundred years later people came to remember, quite a lot of people compared to other commemorations. I heard they were proud to be present, happy to explain to their children or grand-children. They showed soldiers who gave their lives they are not forgotten, even in small villages.
Each town or village in our area organizes a commemoration to celebrate the beginning of WW1 a hundred years ago.
In Lunéville castle it is different. There is an exhibition called Résurgence Terre with eight French and German artists. In 5 or 6 different rooms you can see paintings, pictures, drawings, sculptures and also listen to texts about WW1. It is not as solemn as commemorations but very interesting. One artist has gathered pieces of bomb shells, bullets and created works with them. Another one has put crosses together with "known" or "unknown" painted on them.
I was impressed by the text Leichen im Priesterwald by Ernst Toller. I didn't know it. It is very blunt, the real war. I have kept in mind three colours when leaving the exhibition : black, green and red, black for the things we see, green for nature around, red for the blood lost in all these places. It didn't make me sad, only very conscious of what happened to soldiers in WW1.
And in one of the rooms I read on the top of a wall Dem deutschen Soldaten ist nichts unmöglich (To German soldiers nothing is impossible). It was written by German soldiers who were in Lunéville castle during WW2. WW1 and WW2 in the same place, history meeting art about it.
Since mid-August we have started seeing wooden crosses appearing around the village of Haraucourt. There must be about 40 of them now. Each one has got a first name, a family name, an age and a date of death painted on it. One cross per soldier killed on the territory of Haraucourt at the beginning of WW1 during the Battle of Grand Couronné.
When I studied WW1 in the 1970s, we didn't mention this battle but the whole war, step by step, and I found it difficult, too many names, too many places, too many dates. Then, later, I noticed people younger than me were not interested any more, hardly knowing the 11th of November 1918 is the end of WW1. Even trips to Verdun could not ignite a spark of interest.
So how was it possible to make people be involved in the commemoration of the beginning of WW1?
These wooden crosses are a good answer. The idea is already in our mind, one cross near a road means one death, we see them where accidents have happened. And the name, age and flag make people react. One man we know has said he "had to stop to read". Young people have explained they are shocked by reading the age of the soldiers.
This time, WW1 is not a story in books, it is history in a place people know very well, where they live. They can see it, feel it. It is reality.
I wondered if people would now remember. Yes, they do, and they want to know more.