A War Story
Piet Scholten and his wartime friend, Rene La Fleur used to paint butterflies on the walls of the barracks in the work camp where they were held during WW2, an expression of their yearning for freedom. Piet doesn’t like to talk about the war and the terrible things that happened during his internment. Years have passed, yet a flood of memories remain fresh and ever painful. To be taken away from his family, not knowing the fate of his wife and child, whether they would be able to survive was an anguish too horrible for words.
The work camp was in Norway, at the time occupied by the Germans. More than 100 men lived and slept together in one large barrack. Food was provided once per day, a bowl of soup. The men were always hungry. His friend, Rene had no shoes so Piet gave him an extra pair that he had with him. A deep friendship and loyalty developed between them, and they shared an intense desire to be reunited with their familes. Over time, the butterfly paintings spread throughout the barracks and marked their deep longing for freedom.
Piet Still Hears His Friend’s Voice
Their desire was eventually fulfilled. When the war finally ended, the work camps were shut down and the men were allowed to return to their respective countries. Piet returned to Holland. Rene returned to Rouan, France where his family had previously owned a hotel. When they were departing, Rene kept waving and shouting, “Au revoir Monsieur Pierre!!!!” Piet told Martine he still hears his friend’s voice from the day they departed. Upon returning home, Piet didn’t recognize his own child.
Piet is now 87 years old. He has never since heard from his friend Rene La Fleur. After hearing this story from her grandfather, Martine asked me if I would make a graphic that she could give to her grandfather to hang on his wall, with a butterfly representing his freedom. She told me that everyone in the family has images of butterflies that are hung on the walls of their homes. I was profoundly inspired by the story, and was happy to make this image for Martine, featuring her daughter, Danielle. When the image was finished, Martine told me it made her grandfather very happy. It now hangs on his wall.