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"Etienne Dufau, My great-great grandfather" 

IMG 0001 001By Margeurite De Joux
translated by Yael Rosen, United States World War One Centennial Commission

Isolation. Despair. Fear. These are each soldier’s true enemy. Vision, hope and connection. These keep each soldier moving forward, even in the face of relentless pain.

Meet Etienne Dufau (1896 -1950), a Sergeant in the French 303rd infantry regiment.

During the war, he corresponded with “an American godmother of war” who lived in Philadelphia, her name was Ms. Eva MacAdoo.

In his unpublished memoirs, he describes the exchange of letters as a connection to the other side of the world that transcends oceans, borders and nations; and the humility and gratitude that filled him knowing that even in this far away place of America, they cared about the soldiers here in France.

This connection gave him hope, a sense of purpose, and a sense of being part of something greater.

Ms. MacAdoo would share about her life and experiences, her joy and her heartaches and how despite it all she was still madly in love with life; which provided him with an escape, and a vision of another, better world.

In August 1917, during a recognition operation in Verdun (cote 304) Etienne Dufau was injured and lost an arm and his eyesight.

He was a talented violin player and after the incident he thought he would never be able to play again. However -- Years later, he created a device that enabled him to play the violin, after all.

This was a powerful testament to his dedication, and incredibly positive outlook on life which became his legacy.

Etienne Dufau, much like his American godmother, was in love with life and held on to hope. A creative at heart, he wrote a memoir, and several poems, that were filled with raw, palpable emotions, and serve as a great reminder that even after all the atrocities, somehow humanity prevailed.

Two of his poems “A mon violon”, a tribute to his violin, and “A ceux qui viennent combattre en France”, a tribute to the American soldiers who came to France to fight the war, were published in the famed literary magazine “The Forge” in Philadelphia in 1918.

A Mon Violon

A Mon Violin snip
Describes how much he loves the sound of his instrument, occasionally painful, but always captivating, how he loves the timbre, and the touch of the strings; and that now that he has to lay it to rest, he will dearly miss being able to play, but will keep the sound in his head and heart forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“A ceux qui viennent combattre en France“

A Ceuix qui Viennent
To all who came to fight tyranny, you simply said, we don’t want this, we have to fight this. We have to defeat this horrible scourge and avenge those who have fallen. And you came to fight alongside all of us. Our broken hearts relieved, as quietly, the shiver of joy and victory slowly made the nightmares disappear. It took more than heroism to win; it took many to unite in the fight for our rights. The tree of freedom is not made solely of strong bark, it is made of ideals and faith. You brought us sublime hope filled with confidence for a better tomorrow. As our bells will soon ring the sound of peace, and our children will remember… France smiles upon you, as you entered with contention. Superb with your dreams and noble ardor, your sacrifice. Your foreheads covered with laurels of victory. To those who will fall to deliver us, death will be gentle; as you would have fallen under a sky of stars, and beyond the azure skies of France.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extraits des Mémoires de M Etienne Dufau (1896-1950),

Devant Verdun, 1917 :

L’officier américain quitta le créneau à travers lequel il avait, pendant un court instant, observé les positions ennemies, et très vite il s’en alla, suivi d’un officier français qui lui servait d’interprète.

Je venais de vivre quelques minutes heureuses pendant lesquelles la certitude de la victoire débordait de mon coeur.

Ma marraine américaine m’adressait fréquemment des périodiques illustrés, où je voyais de suggestives allégories. De formidables masses humaines, sur d’interminables alignements, défilaient sous l’étendard étoilé. Cet officier américain qui venait de si loin n’était-il pas un peu comme la pointe avancée d’une armée en marche vers notre continent ?

Je n’ai pas oublié cet instant pendant lequel l’espérance visita ma tranchée, et non plus cette première lettre que je reçus des Etats-Unis. J’étais étendu sur le sol, à côté d’une pièce d’artillerie, et le vaguemestre me tendit une missive timbrée de New-York. Quelques lignes seulement en un français correct, et qui commençaient par ces mots : "Mon cher soldat…" La manifestation touchante de cette admiration et de cette sympathie qu’on éprouvait alors dans le monde pour les soldats de chez nous.

Il me sembla soudain que mon existence s’étendait aux limites d’un monde nouveau et qu’une pensée affectueuse s’unissait fraternellement à la mienne. Une immense cité s’édifiait devant mes yeux, et j’en considérais les rectilignes et larges avenues, les parcs aux vastes perspectives, les terrains consacrés aux jeux et aux sports. Il y avait aussi ces gratte-ciel impressionnants dont les hautes silhouettes m’effaraient un peu. En fait, toute une vie pittoresque et cosmopolite en même temps qu’opulente et fiévreuse.

De tout cet inconnu étrange et bouleversant, je me mis à dégager le visage de ma correspondante tel qu’une photographie me l’avait révélé. Quelque chose de doux et d’énergique émanait de ces yeux profonds et noirs, de ces traits nets et de ce front pensif qu’encadrait un large feutre noué d’une écharpe.

Miss Eva Mac Adoo me racontait ses clubs et ses amitiés, ses loisirs et ses activités et joignait à ses lettres des vers qu'elle avait autrefois composés. Un grand amour et une grande souffrance avaient passé dans son existence, mais elle était demeurée malgré tout et selon sa propre expression, une grande amoureuse de la vie. Sa nature était sensible et enthousiaste, solidement aussi en contact avec le réel. Le monde dont elle faisait partie était un monde où semblaient harmonieusement se mêler l’action et le rêve, et pour un peu j’aurais presque demandé à mon visiteur s’il ne l’avait jamais rencontrée…

Les Etats-Unis venaient à mon secours.
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