Newspaper Page Text
The Rebirth of Northern France i PEACE has not come to n of France as it is shown in old pictures, a smiling angel with a wreath in her hand. We have suffered too much; we are. as it were, in a lull after the most terrible earthquake the world has ever seen, causing a devastation 10 thorough and methodical in all its details, that one wonders how it was possible to devise it. To fathom the heroism France needs for the task of reconstruction, the undoing of the disastrous ef fect! ol the war. you must follow me to its northern department which have been for more than four ycar the battle held of Europe. In referring to our North. 1 shall not Speak of it as it was in November. 1918, when the enemy was driven out of it, but as it is at the present moment And should I sometimes in my description touch upon the past, it is because for na tions, as tor individuals, past and present are inti mately connected Seeiies may change, great upheav als root out the visible form of all that once was. hut human nature remains as it is, and people can only be lllldcritood when you link what has been with what is today. To show you the picture at present, let me take you to the three great thoroughfares of Northern France which lor more than four years have resounded with the footsteps of millions, civilians and soldiers, enemy and Allied troops. These are the Ypres Bailleul, the Bassee-Lens and the Arras-Dotsai routes: they are household words in America and England, as well a in France. Looking at the wide northern plain which these roads traverse, it seems as if the enemy had only left yesterday ; the surface-litter alone has gone, and the American and English souvenir hunter would have difficulty in finding any memento, unless he covet one of the sometimes live shells which the agricultural laborer turns up with his plow and throws on the wayside. The fields riht and left are a mass oi broken ground, as if an Etna or Vesuvius had upturned them. There are still gun-pits, and some retain their camouflage of green which looks odd against the grey sky. winter having thrown its dim light on all that surrounds you. Barbed wire hi piled up n the roadside or is trailing on the ground, like gigantic witches" hair left after a midnight revel. There is one great change, however, which the ces sation of strife has brought about : It is the awful, death-like silence which has followed the uproar and turmoil of the battle. It benumbs body and soul. Into this solitude, are gradually creeping back those who once dwelt here, the industrious Flemish race who, on that wide space, cultivated the beetroot t feed the sugar-mills this industry being the chief resource of our North as well as the blue-flowered flax which was woven into wondrous fine linen that successfully rivalled with Belfast, and for lack of which the world today has grown poorer. But even now all looks deserted ; it is difficult to find any trace of workers on the vast plain. Instead of the valiant Flemish, you meet sometimes turbaned Indians driv ing wagons, r civilians on motor lorries bringing provisions to the devastated regions from Bethune to Epinal. There are Chinese working parties too, whose thieving proclivities make them a terror to those whom we once called "refugees" hut who now have come back to their own. Doubtless, all around speaks of deso lation and death, a land struck for all time with sterility . and we ask if and how a miracle can happen, so that the wilderness may bloom again. We for get that human emirate and tenacity have worked wonders from all time; and that the Flemish race is especially blessed in this respect Their country has been for centuries the battle field of Europe ; Goths. Vandals, Prussians, Spaniards, Germans have settled their differences here. But more even than against man, the Flemish have waged war successfully against climate and water, tearing, as it were, the soil from By MARIE DE PERROT tSL the clutches ol the inundations. Remember that their prosperity dates only from the nineteenth century; that they owed it to their lUCCeSSfttl industries, thus to them selves; and that CnCfgJ and power of achievement, such as they possess, cannot be lost while a drop oi blood remains in the veins of the people; so long as the gn It sound of the wavei which heat against the shores of - OUT North is heard, her children will respond, Of the two million people who tied at the approach of the enemy in 114, or were driven out by them in 1(1S, about one million, men. women and children, have come back. They have occupied once again the houses, gardens, fields and vineyards. As of yore, the long arms of the windmills, without which no Flemish land scape would be perfect, move gam. They no longer look like soulless things, but are working in the breees of Flanders. On the wide fields, where even before the war the small homesteads lav disseminated, some times a few miles distant one from another, clearings have been made by people who live in huts on the roadside. There are also villages where sometimes half a street is left. In these, families have resumed their everyday life, and you meet urchins with satchels and slates going to the communal school which may be held in a cellar, for want of a building. Every man. woman and child in France, especially in the North, is bent upon the great task of reconstruction, livery man? Well, it is as the great Mogul Kmperor Babar says in his Memoirs when speaking of his soldiers: "Every man behaved splendidly, and those who did not are not worth mentioning." Help Slow in Coming IN THE meantime the people have lost everything and have to live. Many, tourists and others, led by curiosity, have come to see them, offering sympathy and asking questions. But of this they are tired, and some have written in chalk on their doors that they have no time to talk. For the French Government, the task of help is a vast problem. Succor, to be adequate, must be varied and efficient. Every department, every canton, every commune has its special needs. Help has been very slow in coming, though the conditions under which the sufferers may obtain a percentage on the sum they claim and may ultimately receive, have be come less stringent. Private French help is doing magnificent work in those parts, and is greatly assisting in the work of reconstruction. On the desolate Artois Plain, midway between Arras and Douai, America and Great Britain are splendidly helping the rebirth of Northern France by their charitable organizations. The British commit tee of the French Red Cross has taken over two large districts comprising some ninety parishes. Like the s i." ti. .. i . ' ""men woihci iuvih mi wwna. i ut snare trie rrtuirep-' desolate life, eat their food, live m wooden huts'1 which they keep their stores and have . en dispensarit Farther south, ruined buildings act as store rooms to winch converge the foods sent by the American and English committees. Much work is entailed )n tu distribution of help; every district has first to be vis ited, inquiries to be made, the diverse needs of tho people who have lost everything inquired into. These once ascertained, motor cars driven by women srt qL? They are piled up with stores of clothing, bedding furniture, food, cooking utensils, agricultural and gar den implements, which are sold to the people at cost price or given away. It is these necessaries of Jjfe accompanied by words of hope and comfort, which have made the names of America and Great Britain more beloved and sacred perhaps than the military help given during the war ; for they have brought to this tenacious and industrious race, scattered in the wilderness where once stood their homes, the where withal to go on again. Before the war, life was very easy in our North Hard-working, bent on success, passionatelv fund of pleasure and the good things of life, as the Flemish are, there is. however, a strain of stoicism in their character which stands them in good stead today. And much courage is needed, for life is only slowly coming back during these last fifteen months to those depart ments which for more than a century enjoyed such unprecedented prosperity, before they knew all the horrors of occupation. The once wealthy villages clus tering around the big towns are gradually receiving back their own : To Yimy, one hundred and eighty sex en families have returned; (iivenchy, of immortal fame, contains two hundred and seven inhabitants and some three or four villages in the vicinity boast that one year after the armistice, they jointly possessed thirty people. To help in the work of reconstructing the two thousand towns or more which have been so utterly destroyed that no landmark exists, the government has called in American town-planning experts, among whom is Mr. George B. Ford, the chairman of the New York Town-Planning Hoard. As a rule, the sin istra (one who has met with disaster) has to prove his claim, after which the government committee as signs him a site as near as possible to the old one. though .sometimes, when the place has been thoroughly wiped out. hygienic reasons make it preferable to trans fer it to some other spot, as is happening for Join ville. in the department of the HamU-MOrnt, The claimant, once having fixed upon the place, endeavors to find an architect to give him an estimate for his new abode. This has to be submitted to the town planning committee, which in turn forwards it for ap proval to the Central Town-Planning Board in Paris. Then the proprietor looks out for a contractor which is a much more difficult job. At the present time, the work is car ried out by Frenchmen, but the task is so enormous that workmen of other nations will have to be called in. The price of building materials, which to day cost four or live times as much as before the war, increases moreover the difficulty of progress and causes many builders to stand aside. waiting for prices to settle down. One result is that many temporary buildings arc erected. They are often very slip shod and have to last but a time, with the hope of better things come. Notwithstanding these numer- is draw backs, everything is progressing rap idly, and there is no doubt that in fifif years' time in some instant much sooner our North will have risen from the ashes of its past to higher and bet ter things. Already in Som oi the model villages which are being erected, the sanitary and general condition! are greatly improved from what the Lb3SbkKss1BsW HBr JVAiUaB JdSsvfl E JIBLC I mBSm mf ;rsV sj Xbtb ennBi Ufip MmiWb5tLsm u Ht -SiaB ill BT J g ' & JK B gjBn ml 4dK L '''BWBtf''y Bn Br -iflBlTT 1 W3 Lfl B 4iA bV bbb htLgdf m "ksn B 1 aAf wVI iBBBBVB Hi Bl BT 'B1 ,a BT-BI B1 B -m- TBBv Bl Bl B Br 4B Br aSfl bl. wl fl& 4bbT Br jb1 by nj BBBBB Bk.. Bl W .Jlfl JmJBbBk ' Bl H BB iii IIBM a .. j y stJPbI isbibbb iL jff''jflif M ftmprt ' bssK-SisiiiiiwbbbbbbIb bbbbbIbvSbm BbVJbA EEPBSjP BBBBBBIbVe' '"it ' '"iBiSWBW f m BbJ BBBBBwP Bhttth froop entering Lille. Reception by the women ol the hrt French toldier to oter Lille. PatroJ ol the North Laooe. raerohing into Cambrai.