Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Autumn this year in the Lorraine is amazingly sweet. People are all a bit giddy by the sunlight and crisp blue skies we are experiencing.

Me  Like  It

With such an abundance of clear skies lately, many took advantage of the beautiful weather to clean and prep their loved-ones' cemetery plots for the upcoming la Toussaint.

People take scrub brushes, buckets and rags and spend dedicated time spiffing up burial plots of those they love. A dirty cemetery plot on la Toussaint could leave people talking for weeks. 

Certain plants and flowers willing to take on the frigid autumn weather adorn tombstones, leaving everything, well, colorful and festively pretty.  Like a big flower party. The cemetary in Villerupt is where I go each year, and say howdy to the graves of Michel's family. It seemed especially colorful this la Toussaint.

A small village located spitting distance from the Luxembourg border, Villerupt was home to many iron works and mines active as far back as 1872.

The population of Villerupt has primarily been that of immigrants, mostly from Poland and Italy, searching for work and a better life for their families. It was, for many years, a village of people living and working alongside one another.

Villerupt is small, and the iron works and mines are no longer active. Much of the young life moved away in order to find work, but many return this time of year specifically to celebrate la Toussaint. 

In Villerupt, the cemetery is filled with names almost everyone knows or knows of; the Lathuile family, who ran the local bus service, Schuster, the owner of the local mortuary, Juras the 17 year-old resistance fighter killed in Senon. Mayors, teachers, co-workers, lovers, living eternally together, covered in flowers.

La Toussaint at the Villerupt cemetery is a time to hang out, catch-up with family and friends, talk about those who have passed on and those who still remain in this corner of France known as Meurthe-et-Moselle.

Much hand-wringing, kissing, embracing hands and faire le signe de croixe can be seen. It's lively and loving.  

Some may find la Toussaint a bit bizarre, almost morbid. But really, I find it a time of reflection and calm space.

A time to think upon those that have died and what memories remain within my soul for them. What of my place here on earth. A time to see and touch family and friends living far from home.

It's really quite beautiful.

And every year, around this same time, in this itty-bit of a village named Villerupt, is held the prestigious Festival du Film Italien de Villerupt.

This year marks the 33rd edition of one of the longest running film events dedicated strictly to Italian cinema.

No subtitles, no dubbing, the films are viewed in Italian. There are speakers, lectures, 7 venues showing Italian films all day and night for two weeks straight.

In Villerupt?!

Villerupt, during its factory boom-days, boasted a population of over 17,000, with a majority being from Italian descent. It now has less than 9,000 inhabitants.

During the Festival, more than 40, 000 people arrive to see the latest, most renowned films, filmmakers, directors and writers of Italian cinema.

The Festival acts as a cultural bridge for many between their Italian home and adopted France. I really don't know how many in the US even know about this Festival, but people from Villerupt eat it up.

I imagine both la Toussaint and the Festival du Film Italien de Villerupt stir up memories, sad and lovely, for the people of Villerupt.

Memories about life and death. About the life here in France and the life left behind in Italy. The blending of both worlds into the one life lived here, that is rapidly disappearing.

Perhaps, every autumn, it is good to be reminded of the life we have the chance to breath, and the people who have touched our past be remembered, wherever we are, be it far from home or in your own back yard.   

Á plus.

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