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Wednesday
Oct092013

Bitter Harvest

Even as their men lay in a mass grave in Chenebier, those who remained in Etobon had to go on with life. The harvest of gardens and orchards was ready. Battle lines were close to the village and meant sleeping in cellars with neighbors. One resident of nearby Luze remembered those days, telling me "there were 18 of us in the cellar, Madame."

Michel Jeand'heur also remembers how hard life was growing up in a village with (almost) no men. All of the farm and garden work had to be done by the women and children.

Here is Jules Perret's account of life in early October, 1944:

Thursday, October 5

The Americans continue to rain down shells on poor Cherimont.  In the morning, there’s complete calm, then the dance begins, this time around Champagney and Héricourt.  We are in the bottom of a pocket.  If the Americans advance, the boches will be obligated to evacuate Etobon quickly and the village will be saved, but only in a manner of speaking, because we’ve already paid more than our dues.

I count the men who are left under the age of sixty.  I come up with fourteen.  There might be a few who’ve been deported who will come back, maybe a few guerillas who are still fighting. 

We went out to harvest leeks in the Champ Bozar.  I’ve never seen such a large and healthy harvest despite the flooding rains we’ve had every day.

We just finished supper, our families gathered together, or what’s left of them.  What a serenade form Lucie’s artillery battery!  Windows, doors, everything shakes.  But the shells are headed towards Champagney.

M. Fléty, postmaster of Héricourt, came by, a little before dark, to bring us our mail.  He was so surprised to see me!  He thought I’d been shot!  “My knee got me out of it.  It saved my life.”

The boches came and stole Albert’s big hog, shook the pears off his tree and came and got a sack from us to put them in.

Friday, October 6

The shelling goes on.  Grange, Crevans, Secenans, more or less destroyed, have been evacuated.

The postmaster told us last night that the villages are beginning to run out of everything.  If we had the means to transport it, we could at least send the fruit.  It is superabundant.  The ground underneath the trees is covered, and there is lots left despite what the boches steal.

In front of Mme. P’s door – her husband, who escaped the massacre, doesn’t show himself much – a returnee!  That poor dog that Kuntz tried so hard to kill on September 26.  There he is, his head covered with big scars, twisted up, one eye almost shut, limping, incredibly thin.  He came over and licked my hands.  I wept over him!  An!  If only we could see our children come back form the dead!

In the early afternoon, another returnee.  Henri Nardin saw our Jarko in Fritz Surleau’s pine trees.  As soon as they heard, Suzette and Aline went out to bring food to him.  They found the poor Serb dying of hunger.  For eleven days, he’d eaten nothing but wood apples (?)  All three of them wept together.  And they left him to spend one more night in the rain, under the pine trees.  What can we do for him?

This same afternoon, going to get some Curé pears near the colt’s shelter, I found two boches with a bucket picking a load of them.  I yelled at them and chased them off.  Then I saw that my ladder was on the other side of the fence, where the boches were.  I said to them, “Pass me my ladder over the fence.”  Which they did, immediately.  But as soon as I got up the ladder, the branch broke, and there I was on the ground, the two boches looking down at me, having run to my rescue.  Strange race!

We are doing well in Albert’s cellar.  It’s warm.  There are ten mattresses on a dry floor and twenty blankets.  It’s so nice there that, even when the war is over, we might not want to sleep anywhere else.

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