Goussainville-Vieux Pays, France
By Charles Platiau
Once upon a time there was a small French village called Goussainville, situated 20 kms (12 miles) north of Paris, with its town hall, its church, its 19th century manor, and only seven small streets. Early in the 20th century the only sounds to be heard came from the church bell, farm animals and the roar of thunder from a passing summer storm. Then came the Great War with the noise of canons. In May 1915 local resident Auguste Denis was killed, in November his brother Henri was killed. This followed in 1916 with the death of his brother Alfred and then in 1917 their brother Julien. A war monument was built with the four brothers’ names among the 32 soldiers from the village who lost their lives. Calm returned until the bombings of World War II. After the Liberation, German prisoners of war worked the fields and life quietly moved along until in June 1973 a Tupolev 144, performing at Le Bourget Air Show, crashed in the village, destroying fifteen homes and a school. A second sound was heard.
Then technicians installed speakers and turned up the sound, to demonstrate to the village residents what to expect with the opening of the future international airport, Roissy-Charles de Gaulle. Too much noise with the runways only 3 kms (2 miles) from the village, added to the fear of potential air crashes. Many residents moved away to a new village, bearing the same name, Goussainville, with a new cemetery. They called the village, “Le Vieux Pays” (Old Settlement), the houses were boarded up, the church closed its doors, the bells silenced, the cemetery would no longer see funerals, and only the rare visitors. Practically a ghost town, frozen in time, where only several die-hards, continue to live. Among them a book store owner, the only shop doing business in the village.
By Charles Platiau
When I arrived in Donetsk, southern Ukraine, two weeks ago I didn’t think you would be one of the best friends I made during my stay. Nobody speaks English here, even if my hotel is called “the Liverpool hotel” and plays Beatles music all day long everywhere except, thoughtfully, in my room. I don’t speak Russian either, but I soon learned Vladimir Ilyich is how locals fondly refer to you, Mr Lenin. Your statue dominates the landscape of this city’s downtown. You remain in full view in contrast to the advertising you stand opposite; maybe people even remember what you stand for.
It’s hard to judge a place in such a short time but I wonder what Donetsk looks like when there isn’t such a big event in town. The city is quiet, very clean and there are more advertising boards than in most western countries. All the ugliest buildings are now covered with banners to advertise Japanese goods or to hide the worst aspects of the city.