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 – Versailles the living dream ✨
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.