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We Have to Go on Living

Jules Perret and the other Etobonais had to house and feed their German and Cossack occupiers, even as their orchards and gardens were being decimated by shells. Leeks, cabbages, apples, pears - winter's produce was either being eaten or destroyed by the enemy.

Saturday, October 14

A young boche is sleeping in the stable with his horse.  This Walter Hutter, with his little horse cart with two car tires, is going to resupply the soldiers on the front line.  He is still inflated with arrogance.  To hear him, they’ll be back in Paris in two months, and will never let it go again.  He boasts of a new army that will freeze the Americans.  “Allies kaput … real cold.”  And just so that I understand, he shivers with cold.

I remarked that, when the shells are falling, the Germans are more chicken than the villagers of Etobon.

Five o’clock.  Philippe comes up to me:  “Grandpa, write in your notebook that I picked the apples from the tree behind our hives all by myself.”  There, it’s done.

As for me, as I was harvesting, I almost got myself killed by a Cossack.  Since he refused to give me back my ladder, I pulled it out of his hands.  So he pulled his rifle, jumped on me, pointed it at my head and said, “Bang!”  Seeing me calmly climbing my ladder, he left, grumbling.

A big boche bought the best pears for the officers.  The ones they covet, at my place, are the winter pears. “I’ll keep them till Christmas.  But pick them by hand!”  Yes, sir!  Climbing into the tallest trees, I shake down as many as I can.  The pears are drowning in the soggy ground.  We wash them and put the least damaged on the top of the sack.  In two weeks, they’ll all be rotten.  Merry Christmas!

Now that the rain has stopped, what much, everywhere!  But there’s worse.  The boches are camped all around, in courtyards, gardens, orchards.  They are disgusting.  And they think they’re bringing us “kultur.”

Up until now, the shells have limited themselves to tearing up our fields, without touching the village.  Elsewhere, they say there have been many civilian casualties, in particular, three families who suffered twelve dead, including all three mothers.

Tuesday, October 17

Early, before the shooting starts, we go to pull leeks.  What a scene!  The ground is turned upside-down.  And broken apple trees everywhere.  As for the cabbage, it’s just sauerkraut.  Since the rain has started again, we have sticky mud up to our ankles.  More of the Germanic horrors!  How disgusting!

Denise Nardin recognized her father’s knapsack being worn by a Cossack.  The community will miss him so much, that poor Charles, both as a man and as a craftsman who was always willing to work.  These thugs have taken three woodworkers, two blacksmiths, two teachers, from us. But we still have to go on living …

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