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She’ll always have Paris

by Linda Mallon

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PAULETTE TINO HAS TWO VERY VIVID MEMORIES OF THE BEGINNING OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR. She and her family were vacationing in Picardy, north of Paris, when France began to mobilize for war in 1939. “We could hear from the house on the highway, the [French] army rolling toward the front, and we knew of people called into the army,” Tino says. “That was horrible. The men receiving the notice that they have to go and the wives reacting in tears. This part of the country was very affected by the first war, so when it came to the second war, it was like you could not breathe anymore.”

Equally vivid was Tino’s memory of the capitulation of Paris, half a year later. “I remember the first day when the Germans came in,” Tino says. “There was nobody in the streets. In that particular section there were shutters on the windows, and we heard the gallop of a horse and that was a German officer all alone going down the street. That was my first encounter with a German soldier. It was in some ways very brave of him or, equally, very arrogant, since he came all by himself. But I still have the noise here in my head, of his horse on the street.”

Like many Parisians, Tino’s family prepared to flee the city just before the Germans entered. But the crowds at the train stations and on the roads were overwhelming. “We went to the station, and it was so horrible that we came back,” Tino says. “And that was the best move of my life because people died on the road. They were bombing the road.”

During the occupation, times were hard. “People were mostly thinking of food. It was not rare to see someone fainting in line as they waited for the baker to open his door,” Tino says. “You had to buy on the black market to survive. There was really no shame in that because everybody was doing what they could.”

Tino was 20 years old at the liberation of Paris on Aug. 25, 1944. “The atmosphere was delirium,” she says. “We were going to celebrate at the Arc de Triomphe and we took the metro, and it was so crowded with people, I remember droplets of condensation running on the windows of the train.”

Despite the jubilation and the sound of bells ringing out all over the city, there were still dangers. “It was not finished. There was shooting from the rooftops, whether partisans or communists I don’t know,” Tino says. In fact, a bullet hit a reveler standing near Tino and her sister as they rejoiced near the Arc de Triomphe.

That evening, Tino’s family invited two American soldiers they met in the streets to join them for dinner as a way of expressing their gratitude.

“We lived in the central south, the 14th arrondissement, near the Porte d’Orléans, where the Americans entered,” Tino says. “They were very nice—they let the French army come in first.”

It was a gesture Tino has never forgotten.

—Linda Mallon

LINDA MALLON is managing editor of member publications for the American Academy of Actuaries in Washington.

Contingencies (ISSN 1048-9851) is published by the American Academy of Actuaries, 1100 17th St. NW, 7th floor, Washington, DC 20036. The basic annual subscription rate is included in Academy dues. The nonmember rate is $24. Periodicals postage paid at Washington, DC, and at additional mailing offices. BPA circulation audited.

This article may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission of the publisher. Opinions expressed in signed articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect official policy of the American Academy of Actuaries.

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