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September 27

 Every September 27, the people of Etobon and the surrounding villages in this far eastern corner of France gather to remember what happened that day in 1944. The 60th anniversary in 2004 drew a larger crowd that in recent years, but the ceremony was the same:  prayer, the French national anthem, called the Marseillaise, and a poem read by schoolchildren. The centerpiece is the reading of the names, each followed by, “Mort pour la France,” “Died for France.”

      Each time the people of the villages gather for this ceremony, they are prepared for any weather. Sometimes September 27 is warm and sunny, sometimes cold and damp, sometimes pouring rain. Not far from Etobon, in Couthenans, the village where I was assigned to live, by mid-September the heat in the parsonage was already becoming a concern. The days had become cloudy, damp and drizzly. My colleague Pascal had told me one rainy morning, “welcome to winter in the Franche-Comté.” And when I asked if it would rain the entire winter, he said, “I hope there’ll be some snow.” The clouds, drizzle and cool temperature meant that I always felt just a bit chilled, and began to add a camisole underneath or a cardigan on top, and often both.

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Reader Comments (1)

I was quite moved by your account. My great-grandmother was Catherine Bonhatel (1841-91), and she had many ancestors before who were named Perret and Goux Her grandmother was Catherine Elisabeth Perret ((1785-1871). She married Martin Besancon from Vergranne in Buffalo, New York, USA. I had no idea of the history of the area until reading it this evening, although I visited Besancon many years ago.

September 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJames Besancon

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