After those months of frost, rain and cold it is suddenly time again to rid the borders of unwanted invaders. Unfair actually, because these little plants have been living here for a hundred thousand years and now they have to make way for exotics from Turkey, Portugal, South America and I don’t know where from. The ‘westward migration’ of 1843 in the US, but at garden level with the same deadly effect on the natives, murder and mayhem, but they cannot be eradicated. Seeds for the next year have already been scattered.

One species I save and replant carefully with her peers and between the pavement I just let them grow: Oenotera, the evening primrose. Because of my neighbour and her Onagres, which travel on the wind from her garden to mine.

An old lady, still living in her parents’ house, in a tree-lined yard without the wide view I have. She sold my land to the builder of this house 30 years ago because she needed money and he promised her, not to clear away the ruin of the caban. The edge stones were still there when I bought it and I too had to promise her, that I would not remove it. Her eyes shone when I told her it was going to be a walled cottage garden.

Later, on a summer evening on our terrace, with a chilled white Pourçain, she looked at the little wall and with tears running down her cheeks as she told me “Only my mother knew that Jean and I in that caban had given ourselves to each other on that summer evening of August 31, 1939. Not only we lost our innocence that night, the whole world did. The war had begun.

My mother was clever and with periodic abstinence (difficult for a 13 year old!) she managed to keep me un-pregnant for a long time. After the war Jean had to go ‘outre-mer’ to Indo-China and never came back. But that last time with him, gave me Isabelle. I continued to live with my parents and because Isa was the daughter of a hero (after all, he was on the war monument next to the church and she would point that out to the bullying classmates) she could be an ordinary farmer’s daughter.”

She pointed to the sturdy oak tree, at the corner of my property. ” We planted that one, that night of farewell, dug it up from the woods, up there” pointing to the horizon of our little valley. “And those wild roses I planted later, when the caban had collapsed and my Jean was dead and buried in a distant jungle.”

The Primrose flowers scented, for it was getting dark. “Also about those Onagres I must tell you. They came from the garden of my great aunt, my godmother. She had her garden full of them, in Oradour-sur-Glane.” And now more tears and a lump in the throat. “Her wheelchair they found later outside the church after that massacre of June 10, 1944. I hope she died from the falling, shot broken vault and not burned by the fire of brisant shells from those SS men.” She pauses for a moment. “My cousin came to stay with us a few days later. He was mowing the land further away that morning and was able to take shelter in a forest, where he heard shots, grenade blasts and saw the whole village engulfed in fire. In shock he stood in front of our house, that evening, bicycle in hand, he could not say anything, only ‘dead they are, all of them’.

In the evenings he would sit on the grass behind the caban, crying, looking to the west, where his and my family had been so brutally murdered. I would sit with him and put my arms around him. He was inconsolable.

Later, when the SS men fled back home, a few were caught down here at the crossroads, dragged out of their car and hanged, right there in the caban. After that he was relieved, but my father never went back into the caban. In the years the roof collapsed and it became a ruin.

We did go to Oradour in ’45 and walked around crying. In my aunt’s garden I dug up some Onagres, with my hands, nails cracked. It was the only little plant that had survived the fire. And planted it here. Survivors they are.

And that’s why that little wall must never go. It took in all the sorrow, Isabelle’s life began there and – my mother once trusted me – mine too. And other life, in return for my aunt’s, ended there.”

My neigbour has been dead for another eight years now and her cottage is about to collapse, as that the asbestos roof has given way. No one wants to have the property. I can only share some memories of her, her Onagres are her witnesses.

Postscript June 10, 2021:

And now the onagres are blooming here at the moment 77 years ago when the atrocities were committed in Oradour-sur-Glane.

So innocent, simple and every night a new flower….

Gepubliceerd door Desiderius Lustig

Ik zet mijn hete dromen om in verhalen vol genot en liefde. Mijn fascinatie is vooral de herinnering aan mensen, ontmoetingen en gebeurtenissen, maar dan omgebogen naar intense lichamelijkheid. In mijn verhalen ben ik daarnaar op zoek en herbeleef al schrijvend, wat er had kunnen zijn of bijna was. Als er maar......

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