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Sur les pas de John Arsenault

publié le 26 avril 2017

Vidéo (http://www.pasdecalais.fr/var/cg62/storage/video/1217140.mp4)

Walking in the footsteps of John Arsenault

“As part of the Battle of Vimy Ridge commemorations, we decided to walk in the footsteps of a Canadian soldier, from his home village to the place in which he lost his life in 1917, namely Givenchy-en-Gohelle.

The soldier’s name was John Arsenault and more precisely, Jean Arsenault. He did a small amount of training in Canada before boarding a ship in Halifax bound for England. There, he took a boat from Folkestone to Boulogne and found himself involved in the capture of Vimy Ridge.  

The Canadian descendants, who have accompanied us from the start, are discovering our region on foot- and there is in fact, no better way. We have walked along the coast, passing through the wonderful Cap Blanc-Nez and Cap Gris-Nez and we are now arriving in this Mining Basin with today’s extremely verdant trail, which they have greatly appreciated.

For them, this is a small country, it is Europe and they take photos of all the houses and all of this greenery. Through their eyes, we have been able to realise the true beauty of our region- which is a good thing.

Today, in Bouvigny-Boyeffles, students from Hersin-Coupigny secondary school walked with us for the last five kilometres. It is important to be able to share this with young people, who are interested in these events. When we arrived at the mines, several among us shed a tear. Perhaps because we realised the journey was drawing to an end.   

I think that some families were never able to mourn the deaths of their loved ones because it isn’t easy to visit the grave of someone when it is thousands of kilometres away. It is true that the fact of not being able to recover the bodies and of not having a place in which to engage in private prayer, must have been an added burden for them.  These members of Jean’s family will be the first to visit his grave for 100 years, so they are very proud to be the first members of the family to be able to do so.

We are pleased to experience this moment with them. They have, in some way, become our family too. It is true that living together, walking and finding it hard going at times- because it isn’t always easy to walk all day, every day- has brought us all closer together. And it is true that the primary vocation of this walk was to say: never again! And that we are able to live together with our differences. It is more the idea of a coming together of peoples, of people from a variety of backgrounds and we really wish to emphasise this point as it was our main aim.  

My name is Catherine STANISZEWSKI and I am the President of The Odyssée de la culture association”.

The Pas-de-Calais Department is supporting 63 projects as part of the commemorations.