Parental sadness is indelible. She can outlive them, but leave the memory of a prematurely departed child for many centuries, that’s exactly what today’s story is about. In the tiny village of Belabre, in the south-west of France, a 3-hour drive from Paris, in the 80s, one of the owners of old houses made an amazing find available to the authorities. When the newspapers found out about it in 2014, the commune became known all over the world…
In the first decade of the XX century, the owner of the house was the family of a noble hereditary military Pierre Alphonse Rochereau. On October 10, 1896, their son was born, who was named Hubert. The boy followed in his father’s footsteps. He graduated from the elite Saint-Cyr military school and could have a brilliant career. But all plans were brought down by the First World War. The dragoon officer Hubert Rochereau was seriously wounded in Flanders and died while being transported to a hospital on April 26, 1918, near the village of Loker.
He was 21 years old at that time. By a terrible irony of fate, he did not live long before the end of the war in November of the same year. Parents have been looking for the burial place of their son for almost four years. They found him in a British cemetery and transported his body for burial at home. From Flanders, they collected a bottle of the land for which their son had fallen and brought it with them. But the striking thing about the whole story was that the grief-stricken parents did not take out a single thing from their son’s room.
They only added a bottle of earth to the table with an inscription where it was taken from. After that, the room was walled up, turning into a memorial. The fate of the parents was lost in history, but it became known for certain that in 1935 they bequeathed a large house to the famous General Eugene Bridau on the condition that their son’s room would not be touched for at least 500 years. The new owner of the house faithfully fulfilled their agreements, although he himself was an ambiguous person.
During World War II, he sided with the fascist regime in the country and actively organized the transfer of French Jews to concentration camps. After the political situation changed, he fled to Spain, where he lived until his death in 1955. During the search for the general, the mansion was leased from a family of lawyers. Then his granddaughter Brido bought it with her husband, the same Daniel Fabre, who invited the authorities, intending to open the room back in the 80s.
It is unclear when the wall separating the room from the rest of the house was finally destroyed, but this place became famous only in 2014. …When the man-made wall was destroyed, everyone opened the door to the past with trepidation. It was a real time capsule and a museum of parental love, created in grief for his untimely son. A solid iron bed drew attention to itself. Above it hung a huge portrait of a young man in a beautiful frame. On the lace bedspread were medals, the Cross for Bravery and the Legion of Honor.
Next to it lay a ceremonial shako with a feather and photographs of dead friends. To the left of the bed on the nightstand was a large bible, a candle and a vase with flowers that had withered more than a hundred years ago. Dusty books occupied most of the cabinet on the right, they were also on the fireplace and the table to the right of the door. There were two pairs of shoes at the bottom. Swords and daggers occupied the space near the wall. Closer to the window, a massive table attracted attention.
There were several framed photographs, a dagger, pistols, a stuffed pipe, several other “little things” and a bottle of earth from the place of the officer’s death, with the appropriate inscription. The chair looked as if the owner had pushed it away from the table recently. Closer to the window, on the right, moth-damaged uniforms, a military jacket and helmet, French flags have been preserved. The chest of drawers and wardrobe on the right were intended for civilian clothes and accessories. The head of the municipality, Laurent Laroche, was shocked by the parental love that was able to preserve the feat of their son through the centuries.
Fabre said that he does not feel a special relationship with the deceased officer, but will keep everything out of respect for his parents. He is categorically against the foundation of a museum and excursions in his house. The current owner of the house has two daughters. They also plan to keep the room, and even the little granddaughter said that she agrees with this. But, nevertheless, the head of the commune understands that this is private property, which means that plans can always change.
He would like to be sure that the memory of the officer’s sacrifice will be preserved for the very 500 years that his inconsolable parents dreamed of. Therefore, Laroche is looking for benefactors who can buy the house and turn it into a museum. He especially hopes for this now that the story of Hubert Rochereau has become known all over the world. It is important not to forget about those who have left. These are the people on whose deeds our well-being is built. And we are obliged to keep our past in order to wait for a decent future.