French fam­ily’s ex­treme sac­ri­fice for Kiwi pilot

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By JIM CHIPP

The last hu­man free­dom is the right to choose your own re­sponse to the cir­cum­stances in which you find your­self.

In the case of many French fam­i­lies in World War II that meant choos­ing be­tween col­lab­o­ra­tion or putting them­selves in grave jeop­ardy by aid­ing downed Al­lied air­men.

Welling­ton au­thor Keren Chia­roni said some paid an aw­ful price for their choice.

Her book The Last of the Hu­man Free­doms was launched at Unity Books re­cently with many de­scen­dants and fam­ily of sur­viv­ing fliers at­tend­ing.

The Pa­tris fam­ily of Laines-aux-Bois took in New Zealan­der John San­der­son in 1944, fed and shel­tered him, and sought treat­ment for his in­juries. But the doc­tor they called chose dif­fer­ently and turned them in to the Gestapo.

They were ar­rested and Emil Pa­tris died on the way to Dachau con­cen­tra­tion camp. His wife Yvette was even­tu­ally re­leased. Chia­roni said her in­ter­est was piqued when the Pa­tris’ daugh­ter vis­ited her fam­ily in Welling­ton.

She had come to meet Chia­roni’s part­ner and his son Oliver, San­der­son’s son and grand­son.

‘‘It started with meet­ing the French fam­ily who saved John San­der­son dur­ing the war,’’ she said. They had trav­elled to New Zealand to meet the fam­ily of the air­man their par­ents had tried to help.

‘‘The woman’s fa­ther had died a very ter­ri­ble death,’’ Chia­roni said. ‘‘I found I wanted to record some­thing of this story for Oliver.’’

Chia­roni, who teaches French at Vic­to­ria Univer­sity, trav­elled to France to learn more of San­der­son’s story and, once there, she found more sto­ries of air­men who were as­sisted in oc­cu­pied France.

‘‘When I went to France, be­cause I can speak French, this story widened out.’’

She learned from the pa­pers be­long­ing to a widow who had died, of the doc­tor’s treach­ery.

‘‘ Here was this long tes­ti­mony of what hap­pened, nam­ing the doc­tor,’’ she said.

Chia­roni also learned of other New Zealand air­men, in­clud­ing Ray­mond Glen­sor.

Glen­sor’s daugh­ter Tri­cia Glen­sor of Welling­ton was at the launch, and so was his nephew, Peter Glen­sor of Korokoro.

Glen­sor had been as­sisted by lo­cal fam­i­lies, given false pa­pers and helped to es­cape from oc­cu­pied France by the same re­sis­tance net­work that helped an­other Welling­to­nian, Nancy Wake.

‘‘It was just a very rich and in­ter­est­ing story,’’ Chia­roni said. ‘‘One of the dis­cov­er­ies I made was that you can’t learn his­tory from a dis­tance.

‘‘The main thing for me has been the dis­cov­ery that his­tory is hugely ex­cit­ing, and the sac­ri­fices of the past im­pact very heav­ily on the present, not al­ways of gen­er­als, but of or­di­nary in­di­vid­u­als. Theirs’ [sac­ri­fices] are of­ten the most in­spir­ing.’’

French Am­bas­sador Michel Le­gras launched the book.

Last of the Hu­man Free­doms.

‘‘ This book, The Last of the Hu­man Free­doms is about hu­man be­ings main­tain­ing their in­tegrity in times of po­lit­i­cal and hu­man tur­moil,’’ he said.

The Last Of The Hu­man Free­doms, by Keren M. Chia­roni, $39.99, pub­lished by Harper Collins.

Fam­ily his­tory: Peter Glen­sor, left, his cousin Tri­cia Glen­sor and Keren Chia­roni, au­thor of The

Ms Glen­sor’s fa­ther was among the New Zealand air­men whose sto­ries are told in Chia­roni’s book.

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