Today my grandfather is 90 years old. This is an amazing age for someone who had to go through so many things. Like most men of his generation, he was a soldier during World War II, first in the French army then later he was forcibly conscripted into the German army - like many men from Alsace -Lorraine, they are called the “Malgré-nous” - and was sent on the Russian front. His stories from this period go beyond imagination. Better than any history class they made me understand what an horrible century this was.
Since ever he always gave me the impression of a very strong man in his head. You had to be to go trough all this without becoming crazy. He was until Latvia and experienced terrible winters. He saw his friends falling. One day, he thought “what the hell, lets desert and go the Russians”. So he starts crawling in the snow but in the middle he thinks “wait a minute, that’s not the direction of home” and he went back. In the following days, he saw the dead bodies of other men who had deserted and were shot a bullet in the head by the Russians…
Towards the end of the war, he was injured and sent back to Alsace. He should have gone back to the front, but he knew that if goes back, he wouldn’t come back. So he asked his brother to voluntarily break his arm. That require balls. But the German didn’t believe it was an accident so he had to hide during 10 months until the war was over.
Today he doesn’t have the same physical capacities as before, but he still has all his head and gives this impression of strength. Before a stroke took a lot of his physical capacities away 10 years ago, he was still working everyday outside, taking care of the cows my father has. Many other older people would have fallen in depression when from one day to another they cannot work like before anymore, but not him. He accepts it, as he did for everything.
Because of the birth of our baby being so close to the birthday we cannot be with him this year to celebrate. It’s a pity but in a few months we will have another reason to celebrate when we will go to Alsace with his first grand-grandson. I’m not sure he imagined such a day would come when he was freezing on the Russian front.
Joyeux Anniversaire pépé !