Featured Historian  

My Legacy 

The story of
 Flore Dupuis Konold

             

Interview by Robert L. Hall

 

 

Today: The author, Flore, on the far right. Sitting by her is Georgette, the lady, whom Rose (her youngest daughter) 
stayed a year with in Paris while she was in school.  Louisette in the yellow blouse is her sister. Behind her is youngest brother, Marcel and family.

There are few books that have profoundly affected me the way Stepping Over the Enemy, by Flore Dupuis Konold, did when I read it. It is only a little book, one hundred and fifty-eight pages.  It isn’t a fancy book, with cream-colored pages and bound in a black-coated spiral wire.  In fact, it looks more like a cookbook than a work of history. 

There is a simple hand-drawn outline of France on the cover and two dots on the map. One is where Paris is located.  The other is the small town of Santes - a village really - on the northernmost border of France and Belgium.

Santes is where the author, Mrs. Konold was born and lived until about the age of eighteen.  She wrote this little book for a keepsake for her family so that they would know who their grandmother was and some of the family’s history.

What began as a series of letters developed into this little tale of a girl, raised in a small country setting in France, and whose parents died tragically the same day, just a short time before the invasion of France by Germany at the dawning of World War II.

She takes the reader through a series of sketches: first, a trip through her idyllic childhood.  Her father, a game warden for a privileged landowner and her mother, an intelligent woman, provided for the Dupuis family well.  They lived close to the land, raising animals to eat and sell, and living from the bounty that their garden produced.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alma, her mother          Henri,  Flore's father

So, why do I introduce a look about France to our southern readers?

The answer is obvious from the last line of the book:

“We lived happily ever after to this day.” 

Mlle. Dupuis, as she was called then, married an American soldier after the war, on May 27, 1946 and has lived in Arkansas, USA for over 35 years.  She is truly a southern author.  The book tells us where she got her amazing strength to go on to live a wonderful and fulfilling life. 

Fraught with danger, one scene stands out especially.  It is when a German sergeant is discussing shooting her as a spy, as his Lieutenant refuses (all heard and understood by the little French girl they had captured who, unbeknownst to them, had worked in Germany and understood the whole conversation but said nothing). One gets the point of the book quite clearly! 

So tender a childhood, so poignant her loss, so dangerous her escape!  I asked Mrs. Konold to join me in discussing some of the points of the book.  Here is what she had to say: 

So many sad things happened to you, particularly during the course of the
war. Can you relate some of the happier impressions/memories that
constantly come back to you about your earliest years?

I believe the prewar years were the happiest years of my life. I was very fortunate to have good parents and a large family always available to interact with. I have fond memories of coming home from school and having hot chocolate and fresh French bread served to us. I loved nature; I had to walk home three miles from school, and it gave me time to observe birds and growing things. I also remember blackberry picking and walking through the woods.  

 

 

Author’s childhood home: She cried when they
cut down trees around it for fuel during the war.

When the hunting season came it was very exciting, since the reserve was rented to five industrialists who would come in beautiful cars and fine clothes. Two rooms in our house were reserved for the hunters and their guests. They would bring delicious foods and wine, which we would serve, for their noon meal. We also set our best china and glassware for them. I loved it when Grandmother Adele came. She was
such an excellent cook; I always remember her crepes--we never had enough
of them. She had traveled all over France, and I remember sessions around
the stove, where she told us stories of far-away places. The best memories of
my father are of when he took me into the woods. He would point out the
secrets of the animals. One of my fondest memories is of him putting me
up on his shoulders to see baby birds in a nest. With my Mom I was fortunate
to have the closeness of three years at home alone, where she taught me
home making one on one.

Pre-war France appears to have been a country with many class distinctions. You tell of a woman - a commoner - who married a wealthy landowner and who had stones thrown at her by the women of the village. Also, your own mother was very well brought up and not happily accepted by her husband's family because they felt she stole a provider from their own family. Is this correct?


I remember only two instances of class distinctions; the villagers all seemed to regard themselves as peers. The industrialists who came to hunt were of a higher class and we did not mix with them socially. M. and Mme. George kept pretty much to their chateau, except in church, which M. attended and sat with everyone else. I do remember M. George frequently visiting with my mother, whose Parisian background gave her a less provincial view of things than other villagers.

   

 

 

 

   Flore, at 15 with her “Wonderful Bicycle”

Living close to the earth, your farm animals and pets, the garden keeping; how did your early years in the country prepare you for life?

Having lived through hard times and family stresses has made it easier for me to deal with later burdens that life has brought me.

I was glad to see that you did not idealize the people in your book. Strangers or family, they are the same as us today, separated only by time and distance. I think in particular of your sister-in-law who drowned your pet dog because she didn't want to feed it. Comments?

My sister-in-law has died so I can say the time with her was the worst period of my life. I still have a hard time feeling forgiveness of her.

The death of both your parents and the invasion by German within days split up your small family. As a young girl, what did you think of to keep yourself going during this terrible time?

I really don't know how I survived that time; I almost didn't, but for a lick of love from my small Follette (her pet dog).

The Germans were capable of good or evil during the war.  You showed that. You worked for the Miller family in Germany, who were good to you, yet were captured by suspicious soldiers who thought you a spy. What was your general impression of them during the war?

I hate to say this, but after my experiences with my sister-in-law, the German soldiers seemed nice to me. The soldiers did not stay very long in my village, and when I saw them in larger cities they didn't bother me. I believe my relationship with the Germans was shaped greatly by my parents who taught us to be polite and respectful to everyone. Another dog, Lumpy. Traveled with Flore and would wave front paws, amusing others.

I wish your book was required reading for high school students who think they have it rough because they don't have the latest CD or the most expensive running shoes or clothing. What do you think they could learn from your journal?

I also wish the youth of today could understand that one could be happy without all the material luxuries now available to them.

I have to ask, do you still have correspondence with those back in France who were in the book? What are their lives like now and what are they and their families doing? 

I have four children and have taken them back home, each separately at age 11, to spend a summer with my family. They all have slept in the house I was born in, as my brother, Henri, stayed there until his death and his son still lives there. I am always welcome with my other brothers and their families. I sponsored my sister, her husband and her four children immigrating to Jonesboro in 1959. It is nice to have immediate family nearby. All my French relatives have a good education, as French education is free as far as students have the ability to go. Their standard of living is comparable to mine, and the younger ones are technologically way ahead of me--with computers, etc.


Stepping Over the Enemy, Flore Dupuis Konold, 2000.

Contact Flore Dupuis Konold at: dkonold@fastdata.net


© 2001 Robert L. Hall, All Rights Reserved