Stephanie Brito is a student at Florida International University Honors College. She is double majoring in Biological Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies. A Venezuelan girl who came to the United States, with the hopes of building a better life for herself. Looking forward to graduating in Fall 2019.
Below you will find her reflexions throughout France Study Abroad 2019 program.
PARIS AS TEXT – PARIS THE CITY OF LOVE 💕
by Stephanie Brito of FIU Honors in Paris, France on July 7th, 2019
First day of what it felt like it took an eternity to come, finally I was in Paris, the city of love… without my love (how ironic). I didn’t let that determine what I would feel about the city, excitedly I ran to my first lecture. Oh wow! That was all I could think about as we walked to the streets of Paris. I was surprised how detailed and old the city was, little houses in between big houses, some harmonic with one another, some so different it looked like a badly solved puzzle. The Arc Of Triumph, a demonstration of faith and loyalists. Amazing how something that was once meant to honor troops and valiant soldiers ended up being a monument to honor Napoleon Bonaparte. Paris and it’s charms, many places to go, many places to admire, its streets full of history. Nevertheless, the day had finally come, I was going to visit the famous Eiffel Tower always heard of, always watched in movies. However, nothing compared to what I felt when I saw it. For some a piece of iron, for others a piece of art, some look at it taking it for granted, I looked at it with awe. Many things came to my mind at that moment, I wished to be with my boyfriend, I wished to be with my family, I wanted to show everyone what they’re missing, I wanted for everyone to see this magnificence. Impressive how Gustav Eiffel could have such a design, but even more impressive what a demonstration and embodiment of power a structure can have. Meant to be destroyed, it is now standing tall and beautiful, being the emblem of the city of love, showing the world who France is and what France stands for. I’ll never be able to describe everything I felt, but I must say it was a one in a lifetime experience and everyone should live it.
VERSAILLES AS TEXT – TWO SIDES OF THE COIN
by Stephanie Brito of FIU Honors in Paris, France on July 8th, 2019
As every aspect of our lives and in history, there is always “two sides of the coin”. There’s the good and the bad, but in the case of Versailles: the royalists and the peasants. When I think of Versailles, I must choose to see it from the royalist point of view. From the moment you’re approaching the castle you’re already mesmerized. It’s royal structure has a magnificent facade that calls you to explore it. Once you enter, the palace makes you dance through its halls, constantly in awe and without even realizing it you follow though its veins. You feel like you can live history again. You can imagine how Loui XIV invited his special guest to the private room, away from the crowd. He will follow through his tour, showing the special guest all his “simple and humble trinkets.” Once he thinks the moment of sealing the deal has come, you could see them approaching the big room. He is sure he will get what he wants, with confidence he asks his servants to remove the curtains. There it is, he sees his guest blinking, maybe even slightly pinching himself, just making sure it’s not a dream. He knows he has it inside the bag, he sees it taking unsure steps inside, amazed, mesmerized, scared … He knows he has lost, whatever the king wants he will get, more now than ever. Seeing how the light enters the windows from the garden, meet the glass and bounces into the room hitting everything in its path. The chandeliers shine like they are on fire. That’s it, the deal is sealed. Once again Loui has won. Even today, his legacy remains, he wins once an ever again, he gets what he always wanted with every time a person steps into his magnificent palace. One can feel much more than what words are able to describe.
IZIEU AS TEXT – “FEELINGS”
by Stephanie Brito of FIU Honors at Maison D’ Izieu, France
A little save haven for children,
Well aware of what’s happening on the outside,
However trying to keep the innocence and purity alive.
April 6th, 1944,
Klaus Barbie acted,
Darkness came lurking Izieu,
Devouring all the peace,
Devouring all beauty.
There were no more children,
There were no more people,
No fireplace to turn on.
No people acted against it,
Fear would take over,
Innocence was turned to threat,
Gestapo officers did not care.
There was none,
Children were forgotten.
Children died at concentration camps,
Parents soul’s died.
After years they are now remembered,
They are now faces in a wall.
For those that killed
For those that never acted
For those that forgot them
For all the children that died,
For all the professors that died,
For all the people that brought their memories back.
Because even in death,
those children will live in our memories,
and they will never be forgotten.
That history should never repeat again.
LYON AS TEXT- “I SURVIVED THANKS TO MY MOTHER”
By Stephanie Brito of FIU Honors at Montluc Prison, Lyon, France.
“Imagine that the last memories you have of your mother are her pushing you the other way,” professor Bailly said. Those words kept spinning inside my head, I could not imagine a world without my mom and my dad. If my parents are my world, how can there be a world without them? That I kept asking to myself. That is the story of many of the Holocaust survivors. Mr. Bloch’s story is one not only to remember but also to pass on. Visiting the Montluc prison before hearing Mr. Bloch’s story made me relive everything he was telling.
Montluc prison was first opened in 1921 as a military prison. In 1942 free France was invaded by Germans. By then, this prison started being controlled by the Gestapo officers and used to keep their prisoners while waiting for trial or deportation. It is estimated that at least 10,000 people passed through Montluc, many were executed, many were deported. Mr. Bloch himself passed through here. He was held inside what was called the “Jews Barrack.” In which about 200 Jews were cramped were you could barely fit 80 people. This prison became so overcrowded with prisoners that they came to a point where they even used the showers section to imprison civilians. Prison cells meant to fit up to two people were used to fit between 8 to 10 prisoners.
With the arrival of the Gestapo to Montluc, this prison became hell on earth. Mr. Bloch emphasized the anxiety it gave to him and to all other prisoners when every morning an officer would come into the barrack and call a list of names. The list would end with “with baggage,” (to interrogate/kill) or “without baggage” (to deport). A confusing thing of course, since none of them didn’t really own anything anymore. One morning, Mr. Bloch’s turn came, he was on the list; he had to wait until the last name was called to know if that was going to be his last day on earth. “Luckily” his name was on the “without baggage list,” meaning that he will now be deported. Days passed, he had finally arrived in Auschwitz. That concentration camp was known to be the worst of the worst, very few people went there and came out alive to tell the story of the atrocities committed there. The thought of being so young to die and the hopes of finding her mom or any family member again was what kept him going. Surprisingly, the little fifteen years old boy who was captured and separated from his mother was able to survive not only Montluc, but also Auschwitz, another camp near the Baltic Sea, the death marches, the brutal work, and the horrible living situations he went through. Weighing only 30kg and having sixteen and a half years old, 1944 little Bloch was finally free. Once at home in Lyon in 1945, he found his grandmother. After some time passed he realized he wasn’t ever going to see his mom again.
Today, he attributes being alive to his mother, “My mother gave me life three times, the day the she brought me into this world, the day that she told him to wear long pants (because if he had been wearing shorts he would have been classified as a child, and therefore killed), and the day she brutally pushed him away from her into the line of men, because if she had gone with her he would have been killed too.” He was able to form a beautiful family and now he has many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Reflecting back on Mr. Bloch’s life story, we need to not only pass it on but also do whatever is in our power so those dark ages never repeat again.
NORMANDY AS TEXT- “THE POWER OF GOD”
By Stephanie Brito of FIU Honors at Normandy Memorial Cemetery, France. July 23rd, 2019.
To: The Edelen Family
The story of a great man…
It was June 29, 1913; the day I decided that it was time for a very special boy to be born. You named him Philip Barton Edelen, your firstborn, your first miracle, the first fruit of your love. I watched as he grew older. Loved that you introduced him into Catholicism so well that he grew to love and respect My norms. I enjoyed seeing him and his brothers walk together to the Sacred Heart Cathedral Parish to serve as altar boys. It made me really proud to see that he was a centered, religious boy, and very responsible. I was overjoyed when I saw him being assigned to be the pastor at Blessed Sacrament. He found his purpose in life so easy thanks to you, that as his parents knew how to educate him and showed him that I (God) am everywhere.
As he became a man hard times for humanity came. World War II was one of the most horrible moments in human history. I have never seen so much death and hatred being spread. However, your boy went above and beyond. The day he joined the military he knew exactly what his mission was and why he was fighting for. He knew inside, that his duty was to, through his faith, maintain others sane and give them comfort through my words. That day he finally understood why I sent him into that world, he knew what he had to do and he did it until his last breath.
While overseas he performed mass, went above and beyond to complete and comply with his chaplain duties. I knew the task was not easy, however I never doubted , not even for a second, that he was going to be able to carry it out. He was respected, watched over for example, called for when help was needed. He was an extension of me in your realm, he represented me, he represented my word, he represented everything I stand for, people like him made humanity not to be lost in such horrendous moments. It was not easy, I saw him struggle, he had to reinforce the faith of hundreds; however he never took a no for an answer. Evil wanted to take over, in a place of war, pure evilness, horror, despair, and loneliness people are at its most weakened state. He had to be strong, better said, he was strong, he was born to do this. He knew perfectly what he was signing up to when he enlisted, and he was living up to my expectations.
D-day came, June 7th, 1944. Chaplain Captain Philip B. Edelen, along with many other valiant soldiers, went ashore at Omaha Beach. June 10th, 1944, reports that Edelen was injured were found. His purpose in life was fulfilled, it was time for him to leave all that pain and despair behind. A Catholic chaplain that heard the reports went to the 9th Infantry Regimental Command Post and found his body. I know you just found out about his death today July 23rd, 1944. However, I wanted you to receive this letter from me, so you should find comfort and pride on what your son accomplished in life. Knowing this, you will not mourn him, but celebrate him. Knowing this, you will not despair, but live joyful and proud of what he accomplished. Knowing this, you will rejoice in the fact that he gave his life to save millions, and that he lived his life saving millions too. With this, I hope you understand that your son had a purpose, and now that he fulfilled it he’s with me, at peace. I hope you keep spreading my word, and finding comfort on my beliefs.
Blessings for all,
I reflect back on Edelen’s life and as Catholic I am surprised on how he was able to never lose faith during those hard times. Even though he had his moments of doubts, he never stop being a navigational beacon for his partners. I as well as him, find comfort praying to God. However, I am not going to lie, when hard things had happened in my life, I have thought of giving up on praying. Captain Chaplain Philip B. Edelen is a silent hero, one who never fought a battle with guns but with words. He fought through all of those who came to him looking to find comfort on God’s words. As a religious person I can identify with him, because even though I have had doubt in my worst moments, in my best moments I always find myself thanking God. That is how powerful faith can be, how far can it get you, how encouraging can it be. I have found power and strength in religion, such as Captain Edelen did. Not all heroes wear capes, or more so uniforms; some can also just wear a cross and be armed with the words and love of God.
- Clive TIRLEMONT – Findagrave.com
- Frédéric LAVERNHE – nhdsilentheroes.org
PERE LACHAISE AS TEXT- “RELATABLE”
By Stephanie Brito of FIU Honors at Pere LaChaise Cemetery, France. July 26th, 2019.
Born in New York on December 2nd, 1923,
To a broken-up family.
Destiny leads you to your roots,
You end up going back to Greece.
A childhood that no one wants,
I can not say I would relate,
Both of my parents love me,
Both of my parents accept me as I am.
Your father is always absent,
Your mother is mean to you,
She traumatizes you,
“You’re so fat, you’re so ugly,”
“You look like a boy.”
I can not say I would relate,
My mom always looks over me,
She takes care of me,
She makes sure I eat,
She makes sure I sleep,
She is always there for me,
While yours was always there for you,
But only to critique you.
Spent your life trying to compensate for the love that your mom would not give to you,
Going from bed to bed,
Not getting attached to anyone.
I can not say I would relate,
As I have found the love of my life,
And just at the first try.
Nevertheless, you raised up,
With only 20 years old you were already famous.
It was 1947 were you internationalized yourself,
Those were known as your best years.
La Diva they would call you,
Amazing ability to sing soprano,
Also, some say that you liked to act.
People would love you,
Or people would hate you,
There was no middle ground.
I now can say I relate to you,
I have faced impossibilities,
I have faced hardship,
Like you, I have raised up.
1954 insecurity took hold of yourself,
As you lost weight you were losing your career too.
Your endless club nights took a toll on your voice,
You were approaching the beginning of the end.
Onassis broke your heart,
Even though your heart should’ve never belonged to him.
He broke his promise,
He broke you,
You sank deep,
September 16th, 1977,
Depression and loneliness took the best of you,
You never returned.
I can not say I would relate,
My boyfriend loves me,
He has never broken a promise to me,
However I now find myself wondering,
If I maybe,
I would end up like you just for love.
Reflecting back on Maria Calla’s life I can say that it takes a super strong person to get through everything she went in her life. However, not everyone can just put up a facade forever, eventually, her demons got the best of her and that is what got her killed. Mistakenly remembered as a Diva, people nowadays forget the musical figure she was, and how she was able to revolutionize the opera world. She was courageous, she would stand up to her, and push herself hard. She wanted to be an icon and she became one. She is the example of a person that can achieve wonderful things, and at the same time be falling apart on the inside.
Living through World War II shaped her, her mom would abuse her and make her work tirelessly so she could keep the money she gained. I can say that living in Venezuela during the Chavez-Maduro regime was a nightmare, which would make me relate to her in many ways. Having to flee my country made me a stronger person, it threw me out of my comfort zone and forced me to work hard. Being an immigrant in a foreign country where not even the language is the same makes you stronger, if you don’t adapt then you don’t survive. My family struggled economically so I had to work. Having two jobs and being a full-time student was not easy, however, like Maria, I overcame my impossibilities. This is the part where I start differing with her, as I grew stronger, my mind and my persona did too. My family was a beacon of support to me, and she did not have anyone to support her or to be for her when she most needed it. I did not fall apart, I grew stronger and stronger. She fell apart, she crumbled and got sunk into her problems, a one-way road to which she never came back.
- Whitson, James C. (October 2005). “The Callas Legacy”. Opera News.
- Driscoll, F. Paul; Brian Kellow (August 2006). “The 25 Most Powerful Names in U.S. Opera”. Opera News. 71 (H2).
- “PBS tribute to Callas on the Anniversary of her Death”, introduction by Leonard Bernstein, 1983.