War in Ukraine: Children during the Second World War, how do they live this conflict?

UKRAINE – Stories, memories and recollections, whose transmission and exchange have acquired a Sisyphean dimension during the last month. The war in Ukraine has invaded television screens, newspapers and radio mornings since February 24, carrying its share of atrocities and belligerent statements. This war that returns to the european continent As expected, it generates feelings of anguish and anxiety, as was very well remembered in The HuffPostpsychologist Jeanne Tissot.

After two years of war against an invisible enemy, the medical lexical field gives way to the military, tanks and diplomacy. If for the youngest it is a new stupefaction, for those who went through the Second World War, the Russian invasion comes to summon memories, parallels and above all a personal story that they would not have thought to relive.

“Today, 2000km is nothing”

“It upsets me enormously, for a month I have been thinking about it all the time. The children tell me to stop watching TV but I can’t help it, it scares me”, confesses the HuffPost, with a veil of sadness in her voice, Jacqueline*, 87 years old, resident of Vannes in Brittany. “My parents used to say that they had two generations of children, those born before the war and those born after. I am one of those who lived through the bombing of Nantes. I don’t have the same relationship as my brothers and sisters with what is happening in Ukraine. And there, everything seems almost unreal.”

Of all the testimonies collected, the feeling of “fear” or “fear” is inevitably the one that emerges the most, less for oneself than for the future of the following generations, and of the grandchildren themselves. A feeling fueled in particular by the “proximity” of the conflict, as stressed by Jean-Marie Muller, president of the National Union of Associations of Deportees, Internees and Relatives of the Disappeared (UNADIF), whose father was a member of the resistance fighter who was deportee.

“We live the situation imagining that things can degenerate as they did in 39-40, we live in fear of a generalization of the conflict, of enormous human consequences and above all of the nuclear threat. Today, 2000 km is nothing. Mechanical means and technological advances make this war particularly close to us”, he explains.

a new exodus

Of the images of the war in Ukraine, it is those of the leaks of families and children that most return to those who remember. It is estimated almost of 10 million, the number of people displaced since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In 1940, after the German advance in Belgium, Holland and then France, between 8 and 10 million people packed their bags in a great movement of exodus. Justine, now 90 years old, was 8 then and lived up north. She remembers this trip very well.

“It’s hard to imagine what it’s like to be on the road like that. These images of children, babies, families, in the cold. It is a cataclysm to which we cannot remain indifferent. I lived through the exodus of May 1940. We were received in a town in Morbihan in a disused public school. Well, we were almost privileged, there were toilets (…) The Germans caught up with us, but mom, who was quite strong-willed, managed to get a pass. We reached Aine with many difficulties, in particular there was a passage between the occupied zone and the free zone. We had to go through a drain. In the end the area was free. I remember those long, tiring walks, those nights out in the open air,” Justine forcefully explains.

And like some beautiful stories that cross the Ukrainian borders, the nonagenarian also keeps at least “an almost happy memory” of these months spent in Brittany: she became the godmother of an infant, whose mother had just given birth after having her. also made exodus to this commune of Morbihan. A child who has become an adult with whom she has kept in touch all these years.

Solidarities transcend time

The war in Ukraine has also revealed strong ties of solidarity, such as this Frenchman who traveled 3000 km by car, from the Loire, to pick up friends. Both Gage and unbreakable bonds can be tied at the heart of dramas, in Hidden: the childhood memories of one of the last witnesses of the Holocaust (Paperback) Co-written with Agathe Steyn, Sylvie Benilouz bears witness to her experience in war. That of a 5-year-old Jewish girl hidden by neighbors in Drôme.

“In my memory everything is coming back at this moment, he said, the tears not far away. These Ukrainian children, when I see them leave with their backpacks, it seems incredible to me. We don’t learn anything. That’s what annoys me the most, it’s like nothing happened. When I was little, when the Germans arrived, our neighbors across the street hid us in closets, in attics, basements, as we see now in the Kyiv or Kharkiv metro. I, they were my neighbors”, confesses Sylvie Benilouz, immensely proud of having obtained for those who hid the medal of the Just.

Acts of courage and resistance that echo others in the current period, conveys Jean-Marie Muller: “This individual and unstructured resistance has saved thousands of Jews. We find it a bit in the Ukraine, with these women who seek to find solutions of resistance. We also see these Ukrainians who immediately dedicated themselves to defending their country, like on June 18, 1940. Many French people at that time traveled to London. There we see similarities in the brave and combative attitude of President Zelensky”.

Memories and transmission

If Sylvie, Justine and Jacqueline trust, for others the path of memory is blocked forever. Several people contacted for this article did not want to go back over their memories and the way they face today. As Jeanne Tissot points out again, “news can trigger traumatic memories in those who have been exposed to similar situations in the past.”

Throughout France, various residences and nursing homes organize workshops and exercises. This is the case, in particular, of an establishment of the Loos Haubourdin hospital group, in the north, which has carried out memory workshops and making little flags with the colors of Ukraine. “This organization is also a way of not leaving the neighbors alone with the news, of not letting them manage their emotions alone”, explains the director of the group, for The HuffPostSeverine Laboue. “In any case, they are very sensitive to the situation of women and children, and they are asking, for example, for an intergenerational meeting on the subject of war.”

A desire to transmit and share that we also find in Jacqueline. “The advice I give my grandchildren is to talk about it with their friends, with their friends, to have discussions, to talk all the time and not to be passive,” details who also goes three times a week. to the Shoah memorial where she volunteers. A desire to invest that she has redoubled since the start of the conflict, she says.

Justine, for her part, participated in collections within her town and with her relatives. That she also feel useful and remove from her mind, at least for a while, “the fear of seeing the spark that would ignite everything in Europe.” “I do my best to enjoy the good times. But I find it difficult to be in front of the entertainment on television where there would be songs and a lot of fun, ”she confesses. History is never far away.

See also in The HuffPost: How Zelensky Uses History To Seek International Help

Leave a Comment