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Extracts from Sara's work


Extract from 'Yvonne, Child of the Somme'

YVONNE MADE HER  way to Amiens the following Saturday, 31 January 1920. Unlike the hospice in Abbeville, Yvonne was unfamiliar with the hospice Saint-Charles. She had been too young to remember the last time she had crossed its threshold, although she was aware she had spent time there as a young child.

   It had been a challenging period for Yvonne since leaving the Leroys in Pont-Rémy the previous summer. Her disgrace in Abbeville and the bad experience in Bussus-Bussuel compounded the cumulative effects of the trauma of the war, loneliness and emotional deprivation. She was a troubled 18 year-old and like many young people in her circumstances, was becoming more rebellious. She resented the control social workers had over her life and the demeaning placements they found for her. After all, she had been independent in many ways since leaving foster care and felt capable of making her own decisions. In truth however, she was still highly vulnerable. Inadequate and impersonal though it was, Assistance Publique was Yvonne’s only guaranteed source of protection and support, and was better than nothing. She did not appreciate this at the time.

   It is no wonder that Yvonne was unhappy and unsettled. From the age of 15, in the middle of the war, she had been uprooted from her secure life in Allery, moved around between towns and villages, been in and out of hospices and forced to live with strangers who were not always kind and were sometimes cruel. She repeatedly had to adjust to new circumstances. It was confusing, disorientating and dispiriting. Yvonne belonged nowhere.

   Living under the same roof as the families she served, but set apart from them, she felt isolated and on edge, always fearful of doing or saying something that would provoke their scorn. She missed dreadfully the safe, familiar feeling of being part of the Desjardins family and longed to go home, although of course she knew that for her, in reality, no such place existed. Her true family background was a complete mystery to her and naturally she wondered endlessly who her family were, what they looked like, how they spoke and where they were now. Dreams of finding a birth family who would welcome her with open arms were tempered by painful thoughts about her mother. Why did she abandon her? Was she still alive? These questions would haunt Yvonne her whole life.

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