1945 April 27th

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A 297 9 rue de Saint Marceaux, Paris, 27th April 1945        from Odette (Chrétien)

My dear Nancy,

Your letter of the 15th arrived yesterday and it is always a great pleasure to hear from you and have you in my thoughts. I didn’t reply to your letter of 15th February, which didn’t arrive until 1st March.

Winter has left us exhausted. But don’t worry, we didn’t suffer too much ourselves from the terrible, cold spell, thanks to the fact that we had electricity. By good fortune, we didn’t have any power cuts in our district. So we were able to manage with 10-12degrees, which was a luxury for us. Most people experienced 5 degrees or  zero temperatures and I have friends who worked with minus two. That was very hard for the older men. It is feared that, next winter, fuel will be in very short supply and we are being left in no illusion about that.

François has had ear-ache and then tracheitis. Fortunately he is in good hands. He will be operated on at the end of May. That will sort out that nasty throat. Apart from that he is getting on well, except for refusing most of the food he’s given. He eats masses of potatoes and noodles!!  We waited the whole winter for a lemon which arrived rotten and a few phantom bananas which never materialized. The poor dears are not spoilt. Also, actually, American chocolate brings a smile to their faces, eaten slowly and a little at a time.

You forget all that, when you hear of those who have suffered years of imprisonment or been deported. Everything you hear about is so awful. Mrs Holman is going to see her son released, the poor woman.

Your grandmother’s death must have created a big gap. At least, your mother will have had the compensation of living near her in her last years. I hope that your father will get over his distressing health problems. Fortunately, he’s a fighter.

Now you are rid of all those threats of German invasion. What a relief it is to see the end of this nightmare.We were very upset by Roosevelt who died just before the final victory. What amazing energy that man had.

The celebrations of the Liberation in Paris were very thrilling. In the evening the Arc de Triomphe was beautifully illuminated and had all the flags flying at the foot of it. The reinstallation of the flags in the Place de la Concorde was also a magnificent sight. Did you see that in the cinema or did you hear it on the wireless?

In March, I went to Nogent just for a few hours and I didn’t have time to see Mrs Daupeley or to go on up to your house. I am amazed that your house was damaged. In rue St Hilaire there were just a few roof tiles broken. The station and its surroundings suffered a lot, especially the part of the suburbs I didn’t see….and the rue St Lazare.

Poor Nogent, it seems a big empty place to me now that I have no family there and we’re not there any more.

I am ashamed that you haven’t been able to get your visa yet. Is it in three weeks or three months that you can apply again? You don’t say. I want it to be as soon as possible, so that we’re not away on holiday at the time. Keep us abreast and let us know as soon as you have any news.

The end of the war will sort everything out again. We were following the overwhelming victory of the Allies with the greatest of excitement. May peace soon be with us.

I am touched by your offer to send clothes, because that will put you to a lot of trouble. It’s really kind of you to want to fit us up, because we cannot cope with the black market prices. I am making you a list of what we are likely to be interested in. All insofar as you are able to help, because you will have many other friends to help, apart from us. It’s my husband who’s in the greatest need…A suit costs between 12,000 and 18,000 fr here. What a scourge this black market is for France …that some are growing too fat on it and ordinary budgets are very limited.

Enclosed are a few photos that may amuse you a bit. I was in a hurry some of the three of them. We took some really excellent ones of them. I can send you some good reels of film. Give me the details of the size of your camera.  8.5-11.

We think of you often. My husband sends his best wishes.

All my love to your parents – all my love to you.

François sent big kisses to you all (three of them!)

Odette

No news of Simone. Jeanine has had some contact. Dr R…has come to Paris twice to find something, but without success. I have found out how we can settle our various debts to each other. You have to go through the foreign exchange office, which is fairly complicated. One of my husband’s clients, who is a correspondent in London, we can send funds to you through him. Not knowing what prices are like with you, but once we know roughly what is needed, we can send you an approximate sum as a first payment, so that you can have something on account. I’ve been told you can’t send money orders (only soldiers can do that) and no parcels either. So sorry about the rolls of film.

Children’s clothes (for a five-year-old)

One really rainproof cape, with a hood. Gey, beige or blue. Length 60cm

One winter coat, woollen material. Blue or grey. Length 60 cm

30 cm across the shoulders.

Children’s shoes

1 pair of leather sandals, size 25 or 17 cm long.

1 pair of shoes, size 26, if possible with hard-wearing soles for the winter, brown or black or, barring this, snow boots in good condition, size 26 or 18cm long.

Men’s clothes.

1 winter coat, datk grey, 1m20 long, 44 cm across the shoulders.

1 dark blue, or gey, winter suit. Trousers 80 cm long, waist 78 cm, jacket 40 cm across the shoulders.

1 grey flannel suit for summer wear.

Men’s shoes.

1 pair of black shoes, heavy leather or rubber soles, size 41 or 42.

If possible…

1 pair of leather sandals

Ladies’ shoes.

1 pair of shoes, mahogany or brown, size 37 – 24.5cm long – low heels, leather or rubber soles.

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