The village of Saint-Côme-du-Mont, near Utah Beach, in the English Channel, has recovered thanks to the generosity of the American godmother, Cécilia Judels. Children from that time almost 70 years later found drawings that they had given him. Inevitably the memories come back.
A house colored in gray and orange or even a little girl playing in her garden … Dozens of children’s drawings that have traveled through time, carefully preserved in an album. A gift offered by students in Saint-Côme-du-Mont to Cecilia Judels in 1954 to tell him “thank you”. The American is the city’s godmother. A woman whose generosity made it possible to heal the wounds and scars of this small village of La Manche during the landing in Normandy during World War II. Gifts and donations, especially school supplies, which she regularly gave to the residents. Monique Houet was 7 years old at the timeshe remembers: “I have no words, it was such a delicate time, it takes us far back” then she shows us her drawing: a Santa Claus with a message where she wrote “Merry Christmas”. She is moved to find him 68 years later: “It’s amazing and fun, it’s nice to find this memory”. One of his classmates also encounters his own drawing: “I did not even remember the moment it moves, and above all we find the girlfriends” she tells us with a smile.
Cécile Judels, President “Committee for the Restoration of a Norman Village” often writes to the mayor of Saint-Côme, Gustave Laurence. She asked to become the benefactor of the village on April 22, 1945. For more than twenty years it has “godmother” des saint-cômais sends packages of sweets, books, equipment. She also came several times to meet them and received the Legion of Honor in 1954. It was on this date that the collection of Saint-Cômai’s school children was given to him.
This connection to the village she owes to her son, the American lieutenant Robert Judels. He had participated in the D-Day operations in June 1944. Belonging to 101st Airborne, it was in a glider he landed in Normandy. Back in the United States, he asks his mother Cécilia to come to Saint-Côme-du-Mont for help, where he fought. He tells her about the damage caused by the war. Destruction, scarcity, looting mark the daily life of the 600 inhabitants of the village. The Jews have strong ties to France: These Jewish merchants lived in Paris for many years before joining the United States in 1941.
Of the 30 students at the time, 27 found themselves. Some are still Saint-Cômais, others come further afield. Together they have a plan. They will be exhibiting original photos, personal items and memories without, of course, forgetting their children’s drawing from yesterday. It all starts from this famous notebook filled with sketches and thank you messages. In 2004, the municipality received a package, inside many documents and the album. They were sent by the descendants of the benefactor after fifty years spent across the Atlantic: “She bequeathed these memories to Saint-Côme, I found them in my father’s property, Gustave Laurence. He was mayor in 1944. He talked a lot to me about that time, told about the destruction of the church, the stories of taxable flour and how he was arrested in 1943 by a teacher who had been insulted by his wife “ she tells us with tears in her eyes. “I wrote a book that tells this part of the story as a tribute to my father. I’ve already talked about this album, these drawings.”
But this time, too 78th anniversary of D-Day, she will move on: “I thought it would be nice to find the students who drew them and work around an exhibition for the memory. We are also creating an outdoor route that traces the history of Saint-Côme during World War II for holidaymakers passing by. through our village this summer “.
An event where part of the story will be told through the personal experiences of these children from Saint-Côme. The exhibition in the town hall and the outdoor memorial path will be discovered from 5 June to 22 September 2022.