By Réanne Hemingway-Douglass
This is my third, and final, blog post from my diary written during my many visits to Grenoble, France after WWII. The war was still fresh on everyone’s minds. As the years passed, my French family began to reveal some of their most vivid memories from this horrific period in history. My experiences, the people I met, and the stories I heard gave me the idea to write The Shelburne Escape Line: Secret Rescues of Allied Aviators by the French Underground, the British Royal Navy, and London’s MI-9.
Years later, I often traveled back to my home in France to visit the Jouvents. The family had grown to every corner of the French hexagon, from Savoie, Haute Savoie, Normandy, Brittany, Bordeaux, the Gers, to Alpes Maritimes. I often took my students to visit areas where their fathers and grandfathers had fought during the war: the beaches of Normandy; the American Cemetery; the Mémorial of Caen; the Plateau de Glières in the Alps. The gaping holes caused by German and Allied bombings that I’d seen in 1954—Tours, Brest, Lorient, Bordeaux had disappeared and the cities were reconstructed. French shops now held quantities of consumer goods; good coffee, meat, cheeses, cream, butter and citrus fruit filled the grocery shelves. Gone from WCs (toilets) were the square of cut newspaper and parchment-like toilet paper I’d had to use in my student days. Bakeries now sold plump loaves of bread or baguettes made with whole grains, unprocessed flour and seeds. Dark bread no longer meant the abhorrent pain noir of the Wars years.