Testimony – Memories

Today, we share with you the testimony of Ophélie Duchemin, Communications Assistant of the Juno Beach Centre.

đź’¬ Being from Le Havre in Normandy, the story of the Second World War was told to me from a tender age, and the remains of the Atlantic Wall were always part of my environment. I was 9 years old when I visited the Landing Beaches for the first time with my family. My mother told me that when we entered a war cemetery, my brother and I would stop squabbling and we would suddenly become calm and quiet. Since this trip which really marked my life, I have always known that I would want to return to the D-Day Beaches to pay tribute to the soldiers who fought there.

When I arrived at the Juno Beach Centre, I had no idea about the Canadian participation in the Second World War (although the Canadians liberated a large part of my department!). In June 2017, there was a school class in front of the museum when the British Veteran David Teacher came to visit. The children went to shake his hand. He started to share his story and the children listened. This moment moved me to tears. He came again to the Juno Beach Centre and each time he told me “Enjoy life!”. My colleagues told me: “It’s normal if you are emotional because he is the first veteran you meet, you’ll get used to it”. Today, I have met over fifty veterans, but each time, I still have the same feeling, along with the same gratitude for their service and for the restoration of France’s freedom.

What I really like in my job are the personal stories of this History. I am fortunate to know a lot of soldiers and civilian witnesses’ accounts. I am now friends with witnesses of this period. Knowing the story of my family is really important for me. Therefore, I have always asked billions of questions to my grandmother. She frequently told me about the exodus and the planes over head… The destruction of Le Havre when she could see the beach from the train station (2,5 km). I absorb every detail, every memory, in order, one day, to be able to transmit these eyewitness accounts to future generations.

Working at the Juno Beach Centre is, for me, being a part of a great Juno Beach family, meeting each year 7 new Canadian guides, and living many emotional moments which will be forever in my heart. Today, I am really happy to be a part of the Juno Beach Centre team and transmit the memory of the men and women who experienced the Battle of Normandy.

Dispatches from Juno shares all the news, events, and stories from the Juno Beach Centre in France and Canada. Interested in contributing a story to the blog? Email the editor at jbca@junobeach.org.

Leave a Reply