Share Your #StoryofFrance Contest: Patricia Winner of Week 20!
Congratulations to Patricia from Des Plaines, Illinois. Thank you for sharing your story about lasting friendships made in Chavelot, France.
In 1944, during World War II, my cousin Leon, who is now 91 years old, was stationed in France for six months with the U.S. military working with land-based, mobile radar used to detect enemy airplanes. Part of that time he was stationed in Chavelot, a small village in northeast France. Curious local children frequently hung around the troops, and Leon befriended a young girl who was approximately 6 or 7 years old. Her name was Lucette.
Luckily, Leon spoke enough French for them to be able to communicate. The soldiers were housed in the town’s school, and the commanding officer would not let anyone other than the soldiers enter there. Lucette waited outside the school every day for Leon to come out. Once Lucette’s family even invited Leon to their home for dinner, which was very much appreciated by the young soldier a long way from home.
(Leon: far right, 1944)
(Leon and his friend, Roger Palm from NY, in 1944 on a 3-day pass with other American troops at the Arc de Triomphe. Leon is on the far right. Roger is next to him in the back row.)
Becoming friends with Lucette was a bright spot for Leon during the war, and he never forgot her. He has a photograph of her that was taken at that time, and he sometimes speaks of her and shows the photo to family or friends. Recently on one of those occasions, I decided I would try to find Lucette. My first step was to get a Facebook account. Searching on Facebook I found that the Mayor’s Office of Chavelot, “La Mairie de la Commune de Chavelot,” has a Facebook page. With a friend’s help, I sent a private message (PM) in French to the Facebook page saying whom I was looking for and why and asking whether they might be able to be of assistance. I did have Lucette’s last name. After several days I received a response from the Mayor’s Office giving Lucette’s address in another town where she currently lives and her phone number and stating she was willing to be contacted. It seemed like a miracle! I was amazed to be able to locate her so easily as a result of modern technology. Leon and Lucette have since communicated with each other by letter. Both are very happy to be back in touch, and I believe they will continue to stay in touch. In her letter in English Lucette said, “Often we speak about this period by thinking of the liberators who sometimes [gave] us candies and chocolates, that of kindness.”
(Leon at his 90th birthday party, 2014)
I believe this is another example of the long-standing friendship between the American and French people. We are extremely grateful to all who helped put Leon and Lucette back in touch with each other, particularly the Office of the Mayor of Chavelot. Without their help it is doubtful this reunion would have been possible. Merci beaucoup!
Patricia received her prize, a bottle of French champagne, from Consul General of France, Vincent Floreani, at the Consulate General of France in Chicago.