The note was signed by four men. Their names were John Janssen, Jul Gyselinck, Louis Chantraine, and Jul Van Hemeldonck. On the note, the men had explained that they too were men who worked on restoring the church. They were put in charge of painting the ceiling and had a very important message to relay. Why did they write this note?
It also seems that the men had to write the message in secret on top of keeping it hidden for future workers to discover. The note was written on the back of a work coupon. It is likely that the men had to write the message on whatever they had with them at that moment. Here's a bit of what was said in the 79-year-old note.
"When this ceiling will have to paint again we will no longer be on this earth. We have to tell the following generations that we didn't have a happy life. We've lived through two wars. One in 1914 and one in 1940, that counts for something eh?" This was a devastating truth for many people in Europe back in the early 1900s.
Can you imagine being old enough to have experienced both World War I and World War II? It must have been a devastating kind of life to be in Europe, most especially in greatly affected countries, during the time of both wars. What the note continued to say would only shed more light on the hard realities they faced.
The next words of the note read as follows: "We're working here nearly starving from hunger, they extort us for mere cents for almost no food at all." During the early days of World War II, Belgium was neutral. That all ended when Germany invaded their country on May 10, 1940. After 18 days of fighting, King Leopold III of Belgium surrendered and the country was occupied by the Nazis.
There's no doubt that these men were talking about the harsh conditions that their colonizers, the Nazis were putting them through. There are countless horrifying stories about German occupation across Europe. The most terrifying of all is, of course, the holocaust. Despite that, we must not discount the experience these men had and their strength to make sure it was shared.
The German occupation of Belgium would only be completely finished in 1945. By that time, the damage had been done and the relatively small European country was struggling. Unfortunately, there is no indication of whether the men who wrote this letter survived the German occupation. What we do know, is what they wrote next!
The note did not end there. Although the men did express their dire situations and left a reminder of how terrible their living and working conditions were, their letter did leave a glimmer of hope. One that would make you admire the fact that despite what they were going through, they were thinking of the future. Here's how it ends.
"I want to advise the next generations when another war comes along. Have a sufficient amount of food in excess like rice, coffee, flour, tobacco, grains, wheat, to keep you alive." The men left some wisdom for whoever was lucky enough to find their letter. Luckily, we live in the age of the internet and their message was shared thousands of times over.
However horrific the thought of war may be right now, it's interesting to note the different things that these men pointed out one should keep a secure stock of. Rice, coffee, flour, tobacco, grains, and wheat such interesting, yet sensible things to think about when it comes to survival. We know all too well how difficult it is to live without coffee, right?
Despite their dire circumstances, it's quite inspiring to read how these men ended their note. They decided to end things on a more cheerful note by writing these words at the end of their note: "Enjoy life to the fullest and if necessary take another wife. The ones who are married: Look after your home! Salut men!"
Salut indeed! Living through two wars must have put things into perspective for these men. Life is indeed too short, and one must enjoy things to the fullest. However, we're not really sure about the whole 'take another wife' shtick. Maybe they meant that it's never too late to find love again?
Finally, the words "look after your home" should be ones that resonate with everyone. Just think, these men know what it's truly like to lose their homes and not know if they will ever get it back again. They experience both of the great wars that shaped our modern history. They were in the thick of it and knew exactly what they were talking about.
We believe that this note serves as a reminder of how good our lives are today. There is no great world war that is taking our homes and families away from us. It's also a reminder that we should treat each other fairly and kindly. These men were extorted and starved but managed to think of educating us, the future generation, that we should be better.
As mentioned earlier, there hasn't been any indication of whether the men who left this amazing not lived through World War II. What we do know are their names, John Janssen, Jul Gyselinck, Louis Chantraine, and Jul Van Hemeldonck. Hopefully, their names would be enough to trace back to their families so they will know what these men did.
What kind of message would you have written if you were in these men's' shoes? Would you have a more serious tone or be as inspiring as they were? Let us know in the comment section. If you enjoyed reading this article, then you'll have a great time reading the other stories we write about on Amomedia. See them for yourself!