Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Médecins de la Grande Guerre

Marie-José, daughter of King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, once wrote that the Belgian kings would never have succeeded in their work of nation-building, without the collaboration of their people:

Évidemment, ces souverains n'auraient guère réussi leur oeuvre s'ils n'avaient trouvé dans leur patrie un peuple travailleur, ingénieux, courageux devant l'avenir, loyal et plein de bon sens, fier de son grand passé communal, de ses villes, de ses provinces, mais avant tout farouchement indépendant. 

Gabriele d'Annunzio avait raison lorsque, sur la photographie qu'il me dédicaça en 1932, il écrivit:

'Un admirateur dévoué du grand peuple belge constructeur en temps de paix et indomptable en temps de guerre.' 

Of course, these sovereigns would never have succeeded in their task if they had not found, in their country, a people that was hard-working, clever, courageous in the face of the future, loyal, full of good sense, proud of its great common past, of its cities, of its provinces, but, above all, fiercely independent.

Gabriele D'Annunzio was right, when, on the photograph he dedicated to me in 1932, he wrote:

'A devoted admirer of the great Belgian people, constructive in time of peace and indomitable in time of war.'

A wonderful website, which illustrates the traditional virtues of the Belgian people is Médecins de la Grande Guerre, by Dr. Patrick Loodts and Francis de Look. The site is dedicated to war heroes (mostly Belgian, but including some British, French, and others) of World War I, with a special emphasis on the medical personnel. Many of the people discussed in the articles were not only very patriotic, in an intelligent and balanced fashion, but also very religious, in a splendid and touching way. It is only a pity that Belgium and the rest of Europe no longer uphold these moral and religious ideals. 

The numerous stories of patriotic devotion, public service and self-sacrifice on the part of a broad spectrum of Belgians, both Flemings and Walloons, disprove the claim, incessantly repeated in certain quarters, that Belgium is merely an artificial state without a real identity. Rather, with its three languages - Dutch, French, and German - it is, in many ways, a crossroads of Catholic Europe. 

Dividing Belgium would be a cruel betrayal of the many heroic individuals who have suffered and died to preserve it.


Lucy said...

Great post! I love the part of Belgium being the crossroad for Catholic Europe- certainly something that can't be dismissed.

May said...

No, certainly not. It's more important than its small size might suggest.