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Friday, September 11, 2009

Notes from France: Breil-Sur-Roya


In France this summer, I spent some time in places I love. Breil-Sur-Roya is the village where my grandfather was born and where I spent sunny summers during my childhood, playing in the olive trees, picking ripe tomatoes for lunch, helping my grandfather watering the vegetable garden, watching him trimming the vines, hiking with my parents, eating the most amazing cakes (my grandfather was a pastry cook). It's always nice to go back there and to spend time with the family.

During WWII, the village, which is on the French-Italian border, was occupied by the German army. Soldiers occupied my grandfather's house for months while he and his family (my grand mother and their three daughters) were living there. I heard a lot of stories from my mother, who was 7 in 1941.

Sometimes when I am there, in the quietness of this beautiful valley, I cannot help thinking that during my mother's childhood there was that amazing episode, those years, the everyday fear, the bombs and the hunger - and even deportation: the people from the village were deported on foot to Turin, Italy, in October 1944 (until May 1945).

My mother talking about her childhood during the WWII is something amazing (but she very rarely talks about it). War was her everyday reality for years, when she should have spend most of her time playing and dreaming.
I should record her sometimes.

In the mountain where I like to go hiking there, in and around "La Vallee des Merveilles", one can still see the strategic roads paved with stones, which soldiers (French, Italian, German) used to control the border between Italy and France. At times those roads were filled with columns of soldiers
transporting materials on horses, on donkeys and by truck. One can still see the ruins of military dwellings very high in the rough landscape. No trees around, only rocks. Sometimes a roll of rusted barbed wire. The weather there is harsh most of the year. The soldiers stayed up there for months, years, waiting, fighting.

The village seen from my grand father's yard

The trail in the back of the village

At my grandfather's: the land is planted
with olive trees.

Campei, in the upper mountain

On a trail near Casterino

Fontanalbe, a nice (and steep) trail,
in the "Parc National du Mercantour"

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