I present you with a (bad) selfie at the close of 2014. I keep looking at this photo because it’s hard to believe I’m the same person. This year has been an upheaval in different ways. I miss so many things. I also miss writing here, and simply writing because I want to, not because I have to.
Last year, I ended the year with a blog post on this film, quoting the last letters of Missak Manouchian and Marcel Rayman. I would like to quote them again; they insert a sense of perspective on everything. At the very least, they remind me of who I am and how that will never change, despite upheaval. They also remind me as the year closes that I am quite insignificant, and it’s okay.
Missak Manouchian’s last words in a letter to his wife, Melinée:
My dear Melinée, my beloved little orphan,
In a few hours I will no longer be of this world. We are going to be executed today at 3:00. This is happening to me like an accident in my life; I don’t believe it, but I nevertheless know that I will never see you again.
What can I write you? Everything inside me is confused, yet clear at the same time.
I joined the Army of Liberation as a volunteer, and I die within inches of victory and the final goal. I wish for happiness for all those who will survive and taste the sweetness of the freedom and peace of tomorrow. I’m sure that the French people, and all those who fight for freedom, will know how to honour our memory with dignity. At the moment of death, I proclaim that I have no hatred for the German people, or for anyone at all; everyone will receive what he is due, as punishment and as reward. The German people, and all other people, will live in peace and brotherhood after the war, which will not last much longer. Happiness for all ... I have one profound regret, and that’s of not having made you happy; I would so much have liked to have a child with you, as you always wished. So I’d absolutely like you to marry after the war, and, for my happiness, to have a child and, to fulfil my last wish, marry someone who will make you happy. All my goods and all my affairs, I leave them to you and to my nephews. After the war you can request your right to a war pension as my wife, for I die as a regular soldier in the French army of liberation.
With the help of friends who’d like to honour me, you should publish my poems and writings that are worth being read. If possible, you should take my memory to my parents in Armenia. I will soon die with 23 of my comrades, with the courage and the serenity of a man with a peaceful conscience; for, personally, I’ve done no one ill, and if I have, it was without hatred. Today is sunny. It’s in looking at the sun and the beauties of nature that I loved so much that I will say farewell to life and to all of you, my beloved wife, and my beloved friends. I forgive all those who did me evil, or who wanted to do so, with the exception of he who betrayed us to redeem his skin, and those who sold us out. I ardently kiss you, as well as your sister and all those who know me, near and far; I hold you all against my heart. Farewell. Your friend, your comrade, your husband,
P.S. I have 15,000 francs in the valise on the rue de Plaisance. If you can get it, pay off all my debts and give the rest to Armenia. MM
Marcel Rayman’s last letter to his mother and brother, Simon:
When you read this letter, I’m sure it will cause you extreme pain, but I will have been dead for a while, and you’ll be consoled by my brother who will live happily with you and give you all the joy I would have liked to give you.
Forgive me for not writing at greater length, but we are all so joyful that it’s impossible to think of the pain you will feel. I can only say one thing, and that’s that I love you more than anything in the world, and I would have liked to live for your sake alone. I love you, I kiss you, but words can’t describe what I feel.
Your Marcel who adores you and who’ll think of you up to the last minute. I adore you, and long live life.
My dear Simon. I’m counting on you to do all I can’t do myself. I kiss you, I adore you, I’m content, live happily and make Mama happy the way I would have had I lived. Live the beautiful and joyful life that you will all have. Tell all my friends and comrades that I love them all. Don’t pay any attention if my letter is crazy, but I can’t remain serious. I love everyone and long live life. Let everyone live happily.
Maman and Simon I love you and would love to see you again.