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Unique D-Day insight from local teacher

Updated: 06/07/2014 9:54 AM
Created: 06/07/2014 12:04 AM WNYT.com
By: Dan Levy

BURNT HILLS - To fully understand the significance of the Allied beach landing at Normandy seven decades ago, is to understand life under Nazi rule.

"I carry my family history on my shoulders," says Rosine Leloir, a French teacher at Burnt Hills High School, who grew up in the Paris suburbs.

Leloir found at at an early age about the ugliness of tyrannical dictatorship from her parents, both of them teenagers during the occupation, although her mother, Arlette Bayarsky, being Jewish, suffered the pain of being separated from her family.

"It is an incredible story," Leloir says of her mother's childhood, "How such a young adolescent, she was 15 and had to say goodbye to her father and handed to a railroad worker."

For more than two years, her mother lived in hiding, away from friends, away from normalcy, using a false identity, with little money, but plenty of hope.

"They knew that something was coming," Leloir says about the anticipation of D-Day, "They didn't know when it would happen but there was anticipation, something is going to happen. Something has got to happen."

June 6, 1944, 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of a heavily fortified French coastline, and then 17-year old Arlette Bayarsky was on her way to school, heard the news from strangers, and ran the rest of the way.

Fast forward to the 21st century, Arlette's first person account is put on tape for posterity by her daughter.

"You can see how elated it was and how incredible it was," Leloir says about her mother's taped account of spreading the D-Day news to classmates.

Leloir now uses her mother's testimony teaching her students for a course called Shaping Contemporary France.

"It's difficult for students to fully grasp what it means until you place them in the shoes of the protagonist," she says, "It is through that testimony and through the way I present it to them that they look at different accounts, that they understand."

Madame thinks her students have become more humbled after taking her class and says they don't take things for granted the way they used to.

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