- How do you want that there is no war so already,
between brothers and sisters, there are quarrels like that!?
And he left, far from the conflict.
This interpellation of our grandfather, Elie, the roadmender, little disturbed us. The more so as Mom, her daughter, pointed out that it was not this way that wars break out. And then sometimes, it is necessary to have courage to fight. If not, Hitler would still reign on all Europe.
Elie and his Florentine came to live with us when Florentine became disabled. They were marvellous grandparents. Elie, discrete but present, was a model of humility and peace. Very near to nature, it had passed his life to maintain the roadsides of the canton, in the South-west of France. During his retirement, he was occupied of Florentine. In good health until in his great old age, he cultivated the garden, peeled vegetables, took part in the household.
- Grandad, did you fight in the war?
- No, I almost did not make the war. I was too young. I am of 18 class.
It was reassuring. The other grandfathers had made Marne Battle, Verdun, the "Chemin des Dames"... Or Dardanelles. So, the Great War, that of 14-18. They were the heroes who saved France. Elie was not a hero. He was like us. Sometimes he added:
- I was a prisoner almost all the time.
And he explained he had known the trenches very briefly. Prisoner six months in Germany, repatriated for medical reasons after armistice, he had been again mobilised in the East, in the "Armée du Levant":
- I was in Turkey. I was a soldier in the Campaign of Cilicia.
There, he was again a prisoner, for 14 month. Regarded as disappeared on May 28, 1920, he could not give news before January 1921. He was released on October 30, 1921.
If we tried to understand, he was quickly unable to explain what did the French troops in 1919 in this remote country . And if we insisted to know what he had lived, he ended up concluding:
- It is not quite interesting, war, you know!
What could he have been thinking over during the long hours he spent, sitting on its chair, looking at the garden? When we passed by there, it showed us a flower just opened, a busy insect, a bird in search for a piece of brushwood.
We had nevertheless been able to locate that he had fought with Senegalese "Tirailleurs", and he had a huge respect for these men.
Only once he spoke about Marache. It was one day when an Armenian passed to the house. They seemed to understand each other. We did not dare to put questions. We then knew that there were Armenians in Turkey, at the beginning of the 20th century and that things were bad for them.
One could believe that it remains no more Armenians in Turkey after 1916. But Elie was with them between 1919 and 1921.
Elie had also spoken to us about the train which had to be kept, which was attacked by the Turks. And then of this small valley:
- We were in a narrow valley, the bullets whistled, the buddies fell... The captain showed his white handkerchief, we surrendered, we were prisoners.
Very often, he quickly added:
- I have always been well treated!
There never was, in him, place to the least trace of hatred for the Turks. However, he did not like Boches!
Today, he is not there any more to tell us this history!
As long as it was alive, I could not have his personal documents. I wanted neither to violate his intimacy, nor to make him revive the sufferings of his youth.
Today I can, without offending him, search in the documents he left. There are his notebooks, some postcards, some photographs, a letter. And to supplement, to know what he has not been able to explain, there is the Historical Service of French Army. And then some books, stories of sultans....