Saturday, 26 September 2015

25th September

The war memorial in Cormatin
We popped into the village of Cormatin on Friday to get a newspaper and noticed that the war memorial had flags on it. These flags only come out on special occasions, they are not there all the time otherwise someone would probably pinch them. So what was the occasion? It certainly wasn’t one of our wreath-laying days, the last one was 14th July and the next one is 11th November.

Names of those killed from our village, engraved on the memorial
A knowledgeable friend was coming out of the baker’s shop next to the church, kiss, kiss and a little chat. Then I asked why the flags were out. She couldn’t tell me, her solution was to go and ask at the town hall - they would know. Well I have had many confusing conversations at the town hall about just such subjects and as it was such a beautiful day, I didn’t want to spoil my or their mood by getting the whole staff into a confused mess.

The flags are out
Back home and after quite a bit of Googling I came across a government site that gave a list of all days of commemoration in France and how they could/should be honoured. and the 25th September was there.

The 25th September is the day of remembrance for the “Harkis” and other auxiliaries. That didn’t get me a lot further, but at least it was a start.

Googling further I found out that the Harkis were Algerian volunteers who aided the French forces in the Algerian war of independence. Obviously these people were considered as traitors and not heroes by their nationalist brothers and when independence came in 1962, it was felt that they should be protected in some way. Instead of repatriating them to France (which was officially and actively blocked) they were specifically mentioned in the treaty of independence and they were protected by law from persecution. That must have been reassuring for them…..

A hummingbird hawk moth feeds on the beautiful flowers
About 90,000 of them managed to get to France, but most did not and there are estimates of up to 150,000 of them being killed in reprisals after independence. It took until Jaques Chirac was president (somewhere between 1995 and 2007) for the Harkis to be recognised and a day to be dedicated to these French people who are "Français par le sang versé" - "French by spilled blood”. But they are not really assimilated into French society, also they are not allowed to return to their native country, they are floating in a social no-man’s land and even though they have their own day, no one here seems to know anything abut it. Only the guy who has control of the flags knows. Not much of a recognition for so many who gave their lives for France, is it?

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