‘War be damned’: a peaceful tribute to the ‘forgotten’ Feathered at Sansan in the Gers
Edmond Sereine, who died in battle on September 6, 1914, was entitled to receive an official tribute on Friday, November 11, 2022, in the small town of Sansan (population 100), with the unveiling of a stele commemorating peace in the presence of his descendants. The story.
More than a century after the fighting ended, the town of Sansan paid tribute this Friday to one of the many Gers “farm soldiers” killed in the First World War. Originally from Traverse City and settled in Sansan in 1910, Edmond Sereine was 28 years old when he was sent to the front in August 1914 as a Private 2nd Class in the 288th Infantry Regiment (288th RI). Married and the father of a 4-year-old daughter, he was killed in action on September 6 at Ippecourt, 20 km from Verdun. The first battle on the Marne then raged. It will stop the advance of German forces. However, this death in battle will not be made official until 1921.
On November 11, 2022, Jacques Sonilhac, the mayor of the village of 100 souls, said: “I think this is the reason why there is no war memorial in Sansan until now.” It was not spared by the hecatomb of 1914-1918. He then contacted the descendants of Private Serein. With a dual purpose: to honor the “forgotten” Furry while celebrating peace and brotherhood (see also box).
From Verdun to Sansan
René Dulac, a 76-year-old former butcher and grandson of Edmond Serein, who lives in Seissan, says: “I was contacted by the mayor who sent me the documents I found. Our grandmother told us the story of going to war, and then the lack of news and the confirmation of her death. After the war, the widow of the slain soldier remarried her brother Léon Baptiste Sereine. The family then goes to the soldier’s grave at the military cemetery in Verdun.
This morning, Rene Dulac was able to pay his respects to his grandfather in front of the stela named after him, located near the church and at the entrance to the Sansan paleontological trail. Beside him is his wife, as well as his nephew, Eric Rusconi, Edmond’s grandson, and his son, Cedric. “This is a family story that connects history with the letter H… I was surprised by this request of the mayor, but I find it interesting,” the young man emphasizes. “In the current war in Ukraine, where other young people are sent to the front without asking for anything, the approach is important, judge René Dulac. In our time, we should avoid getting there, but it is not so relevant… We feel like we are sitting on a carpet bomb. »
Taking advantage of the financial support of “Souvenir Français”, Jacques Sonilhak invited the sculptor Philippe Pateau to design the stele. Vendéen chose a monument in the form of an open book, “but a book that lives with dog-eared pages, telling a story that must be read, re-read and, above all, passed on.” On a Corten steel stele (with induced surface corrosion) whose protective rust is also an allegory of the passage of time, we find the main doves, symbols of peace.
The tree of peace
A tree of peace was also planted in Sansan on this unique day of remembrance. “This is the qingko biloba whose seeds come to us from Hiroshima through the municipal movement for peace (Lasseran and Lanne-Soubiran, editor’s note),” emphasizes Jacques Sonilhac before inviting him to sing “Marselaise.” and edited by Graeme Allright (1926-2020): “For all the children of the earth / Let us sing of love and freedom / Against all hatred and war / A banner of hope is raised / A banner of justice and peace…”
“War be damned”
Inspired by the famous monument to the dead of Gentioux (Creuse), inaugurated in 1922, and with an explosive message for the time, the sentence engraved on the Sansan stele aims to celebrate the souls. “We wanted to emphasize the absurdity and horror of war,” the mayor explains. Of course, there are times when war is inevitable, because today Ukrainians have no choice but to defend their country with weapons in their hands. The problem is that they are going to kill Russian soldiers who are not responsible for this. The real person in charge is well protected in his bunker. It is never the people who decide to go to war, they are the ones who suffer.