Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Paris Has Fallen

Bundesarchiv
Jean-Yves Cahun sat with his back to the barn, his helmet was on the ground next to him, his rifle was propped up against the side of the barn, within easy reach. He was staring into space, his gaze unfocused, no emotion at all showing on his face. It seemed to him that the end of all things was at hand.

Sergent Podbielski took a swig of water from his canteen, then twisted its cap back on, letting the nearly empty vessel fall to his side. He sighed and wondered what they should do, now that the front was falling apart. Paris had been declared an open city and the Germans were already there.

"Damian, any word from that French captain?" Podbielski asked Soldat Damian Krempa, who spoke French like a native.

"No, they're still waiting for orders, though he did tell me that the Polish forces fighting within France have instructions to withdraw south, to Saint-Jean-de-Luz, which is damned near in Spain. It's on the coast close to the Spanish border from what he tells me." Krempa asked with a grumble.

"Spain, that's hundreds of kilometers from here? Are they insane?" Podbielski protested.

"Think about it Bartosz, if we were still with our unit we would be much closer. Most of the guys were sent south just before the Niemcy looped around the eastern edge of Paris. The port of Bayonne, which is near Saint-Jean-de-Luz, would make sense. But we're far from home, so to speak." Krempa looked over at Cahun, "Have you told Jean-Yves yet?"

"No, I guess I should."


"A parade? Seriously?" Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier Jürgen von Lüttwitz looked at the new company commander, Oberleutnant Ferdinand Busch.

"We're here, the Führer wants a parade to overawe the French civilians, so we march. By the way, you've got Acker's platoon until headquarters sends a replacement or he returns from hospital. I don't think either eventuality is likely in the near future. Anyway, make sure your boys look tidy and parade-worthy. Tomorrow, first light, I'll be by to inspect, let's say 0430."

"Jawohl, Herr Oberleutnant." Jürgen snapped his heels together and nodded as the lieutenant left the small building the platoon was using as a bivouac, not far from the Arc de Triomphe. While he was excited to see Paris, he wasn't thrilled about the prospect of parading down the Champs-Élysées. Though the French had requested an armistice, the fighting continued to the south of Paris. Why a parade, he wondered, the war wasn't over yet. Damned headquarters types.


"You only need two phrases in Polish, Jean-Yves. 'tak sierżancie' and 'nie sierżancie.' 'Yes, sergeant' and 'no, sergeant.' Very simple yes?" Podbielski explained, "If you stay with us the authorities need to think you're Polish, not French."

"But my pay book ..." Jean-Yves protested.

Soldat Klaudiusz Mierzejewski handed Jean-Yves a pay book and said, "Like this one, yes?"

Jean-Yves opened it, there was his picture but the book said his name was Jan-Iwo, not Jean-Yves. "But ..."

"It's pronounced 'yan ee-wo' and your last name is pronounced "ka-hoon" in Polish. Think you can remember that?" Podbielski asked the young Frenchman.

"Yes, but ..."

"Your army is preparing to surrender, we're going to England, one way or another. You should come with us, if you stay here ..." Podbielski gave a shrug. "These papers aren't perfect, but we shouldn't need them. If we get stopped by the authorities, we're f**ked. But they're better than nothing."

"When?"

"Nightfall. We have a long way to go but it's best to move now before the Germans sort themselves out between here and the coast. We're heading to ..." Podbielski turned to look at Soldat Juliusz Dziadosz, who had been something of a scholar before the war.

"Saint-Valery-en-Caux, it's roughly 120 kilometers from here. It's a small fishing village according to my Michelin guide. We should be able to get a boat there. Mariusz, you were a fisherman before the war, yes?" Dziadosz turned and asked Soldat Mariusz Perzan.

"If it floats, I can handle it. Sails, motor, whatever." Perzan answered.

Jean-Yves looked thoughtful for a moment, then nodded. "Bon¹. We go. I shall be Polish until we get to England, then I will be French again."

"You don't like our company Jan-Iwo?" Podbielski asked with a smile.

Jean-Yves stared blankly at the Sergent for a moment, then recognized his name in Polish.

"Nie sierżancie, I like your company just fine, but I need to be in a unit where I speak the language."

Soldat Damian Krempa laughed and said, "By the time we get to England, we'll have you chattering like a boy from Warszawa!"

Jean-Yves looked doubtful but nodded. "We shall see about that Damian, we shall see."




¹ Good. (French)

18 comments:

  1. OAFS' Muse, please let the Poles make it to Blighty.

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  2. Echoing Scott that Jan-Iwo and company survive the proposed trek.......road trip!

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  3. Sarge, I think we (or at least I) very much underestimate the moral blow that was Paris falling, especially since in the War it has been untouched for the final war. The Germans marching down the Champ d'Elysee just made it worse.

    I like that the Poles have adopted Jean-Yves. Hopefully he does indeed learn Polish - but they all stay in the West after the War anyway.

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    1. After what the Brits and Americans did to put Eastern Europe under Communism in 1945, I wouldn't blame them for staying in the West. Many did.

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    2. That was perhaps the most evil thing a US President ever agreed to.

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    3. "The most evil..." ? There are a number of contenders for that one...
      Boat Guy

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  4. We ride!
    -Barry
    :-)

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  5. Good luck with that Polish. It ain't easy to learn it.
    Dennis in Poland

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  6. Good men make good common causes their causes. May your muse be kind with them, and guide his speedily learning his new worlds.

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  7. That was a great story!

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