Thila's hill (photo: Mirjam Coumans)
Back to Farciennes
The Nada Chronicles, part 19
- 1 -
It’s March 22nd, 1996 when my quest through the interesting world of spiritually and enlightenment starts. Of course there had been signs before that gave me hints there should be more between heaven and earth. Until that moment though, they had not touched me enough to gain the insight that ‘more’ should be taken very literally.
From one day on the other the world as I knew it had become endlessly larger and with some of my adventures you, reader, have already been in touch. That day some things that made me realize that the life as I knew it up till then, was only one out of many. It was whispered in my ear very unexpectedly.
The messages that came through were about a specific young woman, Thila that would have been an incarnation of me in a Walloon village, where everyone speaks French, in the Belgian Hainault region. The whole story takes place in 1794. A number that appeared luminous in my bedroom.
- 2 -Mathilde Labruyère was born on the 14th of August 1769 as the fourth child and first daughter of Pierre and Agnes Labruyère in a poor family of mineworkers in the Southern Netherlands, which is the French-speaking part of present day Belgium. They lived in the small village of Farciennes, not far from the city of Charleroi.
The eldest son is named after father Pierre as was common in those days. The second son is named Guillaume; the third probably Arien. Then follow Mathilde (Thila), François and Julie.
Mother Agnes is weak, so that Thila has to take care of the house at a very young age, while father Pierre and the boys - as soon as they have reached the right age – earn their living in the local coal pit.
When Thila is 25 years old, Napoleon’s army’s enter Charleroi and crimp father Pierre and the four boys to fight against the armies of Prussia and Austria. They draw together near Fleurus, which is about 10 kilometres northward and where a big battle is fought on the 16th of June 1794. The French army under general Jourdan wins, so that almost the entire Southern Netherlands become due to Napoleon.
Because mother Agnes died earlier that year and all men have gone, Mathilde and her sister Julie live alone now in the small miners house. When later it turns out that father as well as Guillaume, Arien and François died as canon flesh in the battle at Fleurus, you can imagine the despair both young women feel. About Pierre there is no news at all.
Good counsel is dear and when some days later a soldier heedlessly murders Julie, Thila is desperate and wanders the streets of the grey mining town. She gets noticed by a group of retreating Prussian soldiers and is captured as spoils of war and taken away with them.
Thila’s desperation is complete. She ends up in Aix-la-Chapelle in what is now called Germany in an officers’ family where she is forced to work as an unpaid help and do the dirty work for years.
Later Pierre returns from the war and finds his parental house abandoned by his family. He leaves in search for Thila and finds her back in Aix-la-Chapelle after many wanderings. They are together for a while, but he disappears from her life after all.
In the end Mathilde marries the local baker Jochem Eldern on March 20th 1820 – she is fifty then - in Vaalserquartier. Read more about this in part 5 of these chronicles: Tila Talking. She dies from tuberculosis on the 14th of June 1824 at the age of 55.
- 3 -
It is natural that I am curious where the roots of this tale are lying, because this was ‘dictated’ to me and furthermore there are no conscious memories of what has happened back then. And so, after more than 200 years, in April 1999, I get a chance to return to Farciennes.
When I am close and I look away over the hills in the direction of Charleroi on the other side of the valley, I recognise the silhouette of it when I think away the houses on the hills. In the small town of Farciennes I initially feel nothing. The streets are totally unknown to me and so is the square with the young trees in the middle of the village. What strikes me though; the moment I ride into Farciennes I suddenly ‘am’ Thila Labruyère. "On est là" is my first thought. "I am home".
I think in French, ride around and try to find the church that is not in the centre. This house of God looks like nothing. Ugly bricks and with almost no architecture. I ride around the narrow streets some more and for the first time I get the feeling that I have been here before. The houses are old and badly maintained, the streets are arched and I can imagine a poor family like the Labruyères must have lived here somewhere.
A little further I see the remains of a big abandoned coal pit. The premises are surrounded by fences and large signs that say ‘interdit’ (entrance prohibited). Because it is situated right behind the church, this must have been the mine where Dad and the boys used to work. It works out rather fine this way. The unknown streets and the square I don’t recognize must have been built after 1794. In 200 years a lot can change.
I stop at the church. A woman comes out of her house and asks what I want. I want to know whether I can take a look in the church, but therefore I have to go see the priest to ask for the key. I don’t want to go that far. This church is obviously built after 1794 and I will find nothing interesting there. On top of that I find it hard to answer if they ask me why. My French is not good enough and even if it had been, it is dubious enough to tell just anybody what is going on in my head.
I have the feeling though, that when I would turn off my brains and follow my heart, I would be able to talk to the woman – at least in the local dialect-. This is no more than a hunch though; I dare not try it out. It is nice though to conclude for the first time not to feel like a stranger in a French speaking area, but like someone that is from here as well. I get the eerie feeling I was born in Farciennes, but grew up elsewhere. In this moment of NOW the different lives play hide and seek with each other.
Later I ride around town for fifteen more minutes and leave for Fleurus. There it is all less subtle and the long straight main road looks very familiar. This must be a familiarness from later, because it is clearly a straight Napoleonic road, but one way or the other this town looks familiar. A place where I have been before, though it has certainly not been in my present incarnation. I eat Fast food and drink Fanta ‘chez Barbara’ and my stay in these parts is fairly short, but gives me a feeling of ‘being back to the roots’ and it feels great.
It is miraculous to ‘be’ someone else at the same time, but still be yourself. Actually the feeling is indescribable, but I can convince myself that it is a góód feeling. To get this feeling has cost me a lot of trouble. The ride back and forth was longer than I had expected, but it is all worth it and I am really very glad I made this excursion. It will last me a long time.
Even the name Labruyère came by. Just out of Fleurus, on the way back via Waterloo, a big sign shows the way to Marc Labruyère’s golf course. A marc can be interpreted as a sign, beacon. The last name speaks for itself and the word ‘golf’ confirms it from behind the veils. Always when a wave (golf in Dutch) appears in my thoughts they always mark a confirmation of a former thought. For all of this I am grateful.