Chapter 2

Seydou Samake


The Great War devastated Europe and swept up peoples and nations, one after the other.

From the four corners of the earth,
millions of people came to die in the trenches
and on the battlefields.

When Lara told me about the Memorial to Muslim combatants in Verdun, I immediately wanted to see it.

Naturally, I was already familiar with the fields of white crosses in French military graveyards, but to see hundreds of Muslim headstones, was really impressive!

Then I went to see the citadel of Verdun and fort Douaumont. I can hardly bring myself to imagine what the soldiers there must have undergone in these passages dripping with moisture, with the terrifying din of explosions and shells.

Then there’s disease, swarms of rats,
head lice so itchy you want to tear your hair out!
To think that my great-grandfather, Ousmane Samaké fought here.

He was a Senegalese ‘tirailleur’.
At home, he was a totally harmless story-teller, surrounded by musical instruments which he played constantly – a bit like me, in fact!

He had for intance a strange-looking kind of bagpipe and a small accordion which now belongs to me.
I still play it sometimes – just like he did, surrounded by his brothers in arms behind the frontline.

This industry was a major one
in this region.

Next Chapter

Camille Brissard