View Full Version : N'Oublions Jamais l'Australie

Rising Sun*
12-10-2009, 05:41 AM
I find this very moving, and a tribute to French integrity, fidelity and honour in a world which doesn't have much integrity, fidelity or honour left.

News report tonight that as promised earlier this year school children in Villers-Bretonneux in France, repaying a debt when Victorian school children in Australia raised money to rebuild their school destroyed in WWI, have raised $20,000 to help rebuild a Victorian school destroyed in last summer's bushfires.

Background is:

Bound by history, French children honour their debt

* Peter Wilson and Lauren Wilson
* From: The Australian
* April 25, 2009 12:00AM

"WE have not forgotten the Australians."

That is the simple message of Pauline Lefebore, 10, who beams with pride as she tells how she and her classmates in a French village are keeping a promise made long before they were born.

Pauline and the 130 other children at the school in Villers-Bretonneux are raising money for children affected by Victoria's Black Saturday bushfires.

"You always have to keep your promises," said Pauline's friend, Cecile Przewrocka.

This promise was made by their grandparents, and it is still written above the blackboard in the class of Chantal Macrez and every other teacher at the school: "N'Oublions Jamais l'Australie" (Let us never forget Australia).

A plaque on the front of the school tells how 1200 Australian soldiers died liberating the village from the Germans on April 24, 1918, in fighting that destroyed the school and left the entire Rue de Pressoir in rubble.

The children of Victoria then helped to raise money to rebuild the school, with each child in the state asked to donate a penny.

Using the slogan "By Diggers defended, by Victorians mended", the donation campaign raised pound stg. 10,000, which was matched by the Victorian Education Department.

Now the French are repaying the debt, raising money to rebuild one of the three schools razed in Victoria on February 7. Today's students of Strathewen primary school have some idea of what a war zone looks like. In the Black Saturday bushfires, they lost their school, many lost their homes, four young students lost parents and the school lost one of its own, little Erryn Bartlett.

Now a cleared building site, Strathewen primary school -- built in 1917 as the war raged on the Western Front -- was once the happy home of frog ponds, chicken coops and a conservation garden for lizards.

The 35 students from kindergarten to Year 6 have taken up home in two demountable classrooms in Wattle Glen primary school. It is only 20km away, but many of the students say they don't enjoy "the suburbs" and long for their school in the bush.

In the lead-up to today's Anzac Day commemorations, Strathewen principal Jane Hayward told her students about what another group of children, in a French village on the other side of the world, were doing to help.

As the Strathewen students made Anzac Day wreaths yesterday, they expressed surprise that children who lived so far away would care about their loss.

"They're thinking about us and they want to help us," said Siena Hyland of Year 6. "It's a bit weird they know what happened to us, when Strathewen was a little place nobody knew about.

"We learned today that all the Victorian kids sent over a penny to rebuild their school, and now they're doing the same for us."

Alanah and Lachie Chapman, who lost their home on February 7, said they would today be thinking about the Australian soldiers who fought at Villers-Bretonneux. "They would have been very brave," said Lachie, a Year 4 student.

When construction was finished on the new Villers-Bretonneux school in 1926, it was renamed Ecole Victoria. A part of the street was retitled Rue du Victoria, and the adjacent Avenue de la Gare became Rue de Melbourne. In a letter of appreciation written at the time, Consul for France Rene Turck said: "Reconstruction was not possible and would not have been actually carried out until the day when Melbourne decided to adopt Villers-Bretonneux."

Some 83 years later, a tally on the blackboard of Ms Macrez's room shows her class of nine- and 10-year-olds has raised E130 ($240) for their bushfire fund. A special effort will be made at a fete next month. The two other schools and kindergarten in the village have joined in, and the town council has voted to chip in E1 for each of its 4135 residents. The final tally may top E10,000.

News reports on the fires have been stuck up in the classrooms, where they sit among maps of Australia, drawings of koalas and even posters of cricketers Ricky Ponting and Brett Lee. Two stuffed kangaroos sit beside a slouch hat on a ledge in the classroom, and a full cricket set is packed into the corner cupboard.

"This is not just a thing we do once a year for Anzac Day," Ms Macrez says. "Australia is always alive for us."

Pauline and her friends have just finished an assignment on the significance of Anzac Day. Today's dawn service will be held at the Australian cemetery just outside the village, but the whole school feels like a living memorial to what happened 91 years ago.

Back in Victoria, Ms Hayward has filled her temporary classrooms with flowers, books and drawings the children have done of the "dream school" they would like to move into when the rebuilding is complete.

"We're grieving for everything -- for our school, for everything that was in it, for the homes that were lost and for the members of the community we lost," she said. "It's still a day-by-day thing." http://www.theaustralian.com.au/in-depth/anzac-day/french-children-honour-war-debt/story-e6frgdaf-1225703311774

12-10-2009, 04:04 PM
Sounds like a good deal, you pay now, we pay later, everyone is happy.

12-11-2009, 12:34 PM
A really nice story.I always knew people the world over have a sense of decency.Now if only it could in some way be injected in to politicians.

Rising Sun*
12-12-2009, 09:45 AM
A really nice story.I always knew people the world over have a sense of decency.Now if only it could in some way be injected in to politicians.

If it could, we wouldn't have wars.

Ordinary people can do terrible things in war but they also have a great capacity to show a nobility which, at heart, all politicians lack. Because all politicians are, at heart, concerned with nothing but getting and exercising power.