Wednesday, July 27, 2022

1960s: Anna Marly, My Grandparents, and the Tulsa Chapter of the Alliance Française

It all started with a photo.

Specifically, THIS photo:

L-R: Roma Lubinski, ?, and ?

It's a big photo, nearly 13" tall, and it was tucked in the back of my grandparents' photo album. It was too tall to fit in the album (which is probably why the bottom is damaged), and I recognize only one person in the photo: My grandmother, Roma Lubinski is the woman on the left. 

The photo looks almost like it was for a cooking show, and my grandmother was an excellent French cook. So I asked my mother and aunt, and they both told me the same thing. It was for a Tulsa World article about the Tulsa chapter of the Alliance Française (AF).

That caused my relatives to start reminiscing:  evidently a French folk singer named Anna Marly visited Tulsa as part of an AF program. She was very famous back in France because she was pretty much the voice of the French Resistance, and they played her songs on the radio in the 1940s, and she inspired a lot of people to resist the Nazis.  

That lead me to her most famous song from that era, Le Chant des Partisans (sometimes Complainte du Partisan) or Song of the Partisan, and it was so popular among the Resistance that after France was liberated and resumed its independence, many people proposed that it become the national anthem of France.  You can read the lyrics (French and English side-by-side) at the bottom of this post.  Here's a little bit more about the song, and how important it was: 

Anyway, my grandfather was really excited to meet her when she visited Tulsa, and she actually became pretty good friends with my grandparents.

Anyway, here's her song (in French).  

But here's where it gets personal for me... I discovered that it was translated and arranged for English by Leonard Cohen, and Joan Baez (one of my favorite American folk singers) did an English-language cover, and sang it when she visited France in the early 1970s:

I totally inherited my love of Joan Baez from mother, and in the early 2000s, Mom and I went to see Joan Baez live at The Blue Note in Columbia, Missouri.    

Here's a more modern interpretation (English at the beginning then in French) that I think is particularly lovely:

And finally, here are the lyrics in French with their English translation. Note: the English version of the song itself is slightly different, and I've included those lyrics below a well (in blue).  But I can see why my grandfather liked the song, and the singer.

Complainte du Partisan/Chant des Partisans (French lyrics)
Song of the Partisan (direct English translation)
The Partisan (English lyrics)

Les Allemands étaient chez moi
The Germans were at my house
When they poured across the border

On m'a dit résigne-toi
They told me resign yourself
I was cautioned to surrender

Mais je n'ai pas pu
But I could not
This I could not do

Et j'ai repris mon arme
And I picked up my gun
I took my gun and vanished.

Personne ne m'a demandé
nobody asked me

D'où je viens et où je vais
Where I come from and where I'm going

Vous qui le savez
You who know

Effacez mon passage
Delete my passage

J'ai changé cent fois de nom
I changed my name a hundred times
I have changed my name so often

J'ai perdu femme et enfants
I lost wife and children
I've lost my wife and children

Mais j'ai tant d'amis
But I have so many friends
But I have many friends

Et j'ai la France entière
And I have the whole of France
And some of them are with me

Un vieil homme dans un grenier
An old man in an attic
An old woman gave us shelter

Pour la nuit nous a cachés
For the night hid us
Kept us hidden in the garret

Les Allemands l'ont pris
The Germans took it
Then the soldiers came

Il est mort sans surprise
He died unsurprisingly
She died without a whisper

Hier encore nous étions trois
Yesterday again we were three
There were three of us this morning

Il ne reste plus que moi
Only me left
I'm the only one this evening

Et je tourne en rond
And I turn in circles
But I must go on

Dans la prison des frontières
In the border prison
The frontiers are my prison

Le vent passe sur les tombes
The wind blows over the graves
Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing

La liberté reviendra
freedom will return
Freedom soon will come

On nous oubliera
We will be forgotten

Nous rentrerons dans l'ombre
We will return to the shadows
Then we'll come from the shadows

Thursday, July 14, 2022

1930: New Year's Eve at the Chantilly Jazz Club at the Hotel Terminus in Antwerp

 So, yesterday, I wrote about how my grandparents went out partying on New Year's Eve. My grandfather recorded the exact date (December 31, 1930) and exact time (10:30 pm) and that they were going to the Chantilly after the photo was taken.

Now, I haven't scanned all the photos in the album yet (I'm about 1/3 of the way through), but this is the only example so far of my grandfather's writing on the back of a photo. Most are blank.  One has what is probably my great-grandmother's handwriting on it. The others have what I suspect is my grandmother's handwriting.   

The romantic in me, sees the significance of my grandfather going to the trouble to recording the exact date and time and what they are going to do next. He didn't do that for any other photo, so it seems important somehow, like maybe ... he asked my grandmother to marry him when they were at the Chantilly, or something like that?  

Or maybe he just recorded it because they were young (18 and 20) and it was a fun night for them. 

Anyway, through the help of some friends, I've found out that the Chantilly was a jazz club in the Hotel Terminus on Pelikaanstraat in Antwerp. Friends found genealogy records of musicians who actually worked there in the 1930s.  And they found this old postcard that shows the hotel, and in the lower left, you can see the Chantilly (click to enlarge):

I "walked" up and down Pelikaanstraat (Pelican Street in English) in Google Maps using street view, and didn't find the building, though several of them looked sort of like it.  

I did a few more searches and found the following page (it's written in Dutch/Flemish), with this image:

The text on the page says in English:

Hotel Terminus, Pelikaanstraat, c.1910 | 2020
Another fine piece of work done by Antwerp, Wish You Were Here. It's great how the old photos are incorporated into the current street scene!

In the photo you see the former Grand Hotel Terminus in the Pelikaanstraat. This beautiful building was built in 1902 by Joseph Hertogs. The hotel was graced by luxurious interiors, dazzling banquet halls and majestic entrance halls. The clientele consisted of the then Antwerp bourgeoisie and wealthy tourists. Unfortunately, in the second half of the 20th century, this building too had to be demolished to make way for office buildings.

The Pelikaanstraat used to be a really prosperous street full of stately mansions. You also found a cigar factory and the presence of catering was evident here.

Alas, the building is gone.  But, there you have it: the jazz club my grandparents went out dancing on New Year's Eve in 1930.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

1930: My Grandparents Party on New Year's Eve

The battered photo below was on the first page of my grandparents' photo album.  In December of 1930, my Grandpa Arthur was just 20 years old, and my Grandma Roma was 18.  

My grandfather was born in Belgium, but grew up in Poland.  My grandmother was born and raised in Poland, and they were childhood sweethearts. Grandpa's family went back to Belgium in 1927 so he could finish high school and attend University.  Eventually, in 1931, my grandmother moved to Belgium where she too attended the university.  

The front of the photo tells me a few interesting things:  My grandmother visited my grandfather in Belgium before she started at the University as a college student in the fall of 1931 (keep in mind that traveling from Łódź to Antwerp took two days by train in those days).  They look like they are dressed for a party, and my grandfather had a full head of hair (he had significant hair loss by 30 and was bald by the time I knew him).  

Oh, and those look like martini glasses to me.  

The back of the photo gives a bit more information:

The photo was taken on December 31, 1930, in Antwerp (Anvers) Belgium. So it wasn't just any day in December; it was New Year's Eve.  And it was taken not just that evening, but at 10:30pm.  Google Translate told me the phrase "avant d’aller au Chantilly" meant "before going to the whipped cream," which doesn't make much sense (but is kind of funny). Then, I realized Chantilly was capitalized on the photograph, which indicates a proper noun.   As soon as I fixed that, Google Translate told me it meant "before going to Chantilly."    

So, does that mean Chantilly, France or something else?  Chantilly was about 4 hours away from Antwerp by train and it seemed odd to be going there when they look as if they are dressed for partying rather than traveling.  

A French friend came to the rescue and told me that if it were a city, it would be "á Chantilly". Because it's "au Chantilly" (which is literally translates as "the Chantilly") it strongly suggests a club or bar or restaurant. 

Anyway, this event was important enough for my grandparents to record the city, and the exact date and time, and that it was before they later went to the Chantilly, an event which was itself meaningful enough to memorialize on the back. And when my grandparents escaped to France, they left pretty much everything behind, but this photo (and a few others) went with them.

I can't know the importance of the Chantilly, but I love the mystery, the idea of it, and that my grandparents were once young party-goers.