May 8 is not a big date in my holiday memory book. My holidays are Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, 4th of July and All Saints’ Day. May 8th doesn’t normally make the list. But today was a major holiday all over France. The schools are off, stores are closed, and banks are shut. It was not until I switched on a local TV station and saw the French and Polish Presidents standing side by side in a Paris parade, that I discovered today is Victory in Europe Day…V.E. Day. Oh yeah, when WWII stopped.
Then Martha and I went for one of our late afternoon walks through our little village of maybe 1,000 people. There at the Mairie was the plaque honoring War dead: WWI and WWII and today it was covered with flags and a bouquet of flowers.
What hits me over and over again in the little rural villages in France that we drive through is the immense loss of life in WWI. Look at the numbers! 43 young men from a village of maybe 1,000 and probably less, died in WWI. That’s the proportion I see everywhere I go: WWI dead way, way outnumber the WWII dead in France. It was a wholesale depopulation of rural France. And today those sacrifices are honored and remembered.