Elisina Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, August 26, 1940

Lyons. Aug. 26th 1940

Dearest Mildred,

I have been able to get a pass to cross the Demarcation Line,The demarcation line in France between 1940 and 1942 separated the German-occupied zone (Occupied France) in the north from the free zone in the south. and I have spent four happy days here with Royall, after over two months of separation and silence. I am going back to Antigny to-day, with M. ChevreuxCharles Chevreux (1883–1951), prefect of the Côte-d’Or between 1938 and 1940. who drove me here last Tuesday. This meeting has been all too brief, but I feel greatly comforted—and I have not given up hope of seeing Royall at Antigny, or of meeting him again later here.

From June 16th for four days an incessant stream of tanks and guns and motorised vehicles filed past on the road between Arnay and Bligny. Then we were occupied by the Colonels of infantry and artillery regiments on the march, with their staff, orderlies and part of a detachment of soldiers. At the end of June a group of officers took up their quarters at Antigny and they remained there until a week ago. Their presence was a burden of course but in personal contact they were discreet and courteous.

I took refuge in a corner of the house and had my meals taken up to my small sitting-room on trays. This gave my guests the freedom of nine bedrooms, three sitting-rooms and the dining-room. I have no idea if more officers will be quartered on me or not. I could claim exemption as an American, this facility having been granted as a courtesy by the High German Command. But my village neighbors would have a heavier burden to bear, and the comfort and convenience of living in a civilised house, and all united, has had a very beneficial effect in the exercise of the local ‘Commando’. So I shall continue to house the officers as long as I can.

The conditions of life at present are these:

No papers; no telephone; one motor bus three days a week from Arnay to Bligny. (We are midway, five miles from each place.) Bread, meat, groceries, every requirement of life has to be fetched from one or the other place.

All foodstuffs and every other sort of goods were practically cleared out by the array of occupation: butcher’s meat and bread are still available. We rely on our garden produce, and our farm produce, and on the ‘reserves’ of rice, macaroni, lentils, sugar, soap, etc which I have in my store cupboard. Our manservant and his wife are going in September. I shall be attended to by a nice young girl from the village, the gardener’s wife, and our old English chauffeur Smith, who does the cookery, and is a prisoner on parole, because of his nationality.

Gasoline is very scarce, and they say that licenses for private cars are going to be stopped. I shall have Smith’s motorcycle for necessary errands, and a bicycle for myself. Up to August 31st the car can run. There has been no sign of any Red Cross activity on the Côte d’Or. When I saw Mr. Wayne TaylorWayne Chatfield Taylor (1893–1967), an American economist, banker, and presidential advisor. Between 1940 and 1945, he was undersecretary of commerce. He was also a delegate in France for the American Red Cross. in Paris a month ago, he told me that by November he hoped to receive supplies that would enable him to give help to the children in the occupied zone. This will become an urgent matter in a short time, especially in the 714 rural communes of scattered villages in the uplands, where the winters are severe and communications uncertain and scarce.

My Providence made visible has been the Chevreux family, the Préfet,Charles Chevreux (1883–1951), prefect of the Côte-d’Or between 1938 and 1940. his wife and his daughters, over here. The Prefecture is my home when I need to go to Dijon for ravitaillement“Refueling.” (for myself, the village, and the chemists and tradespeople of Arnay and Bligny). M. Chevreux has driven me here, he is driving me back, and he drove me to Paris and back. He intends to do so as often as it is necessary, he tells me. The Chevreux are the only means I have of getting even scraps of information on the conditions of the world.

My reason for staying at Antigny is that every house great or small that was found empty of the owners by the army of occupation, was taken and looted. This has been the fate of Commarin, Ste. Sabine, Villeneuve, Bourbilly, Epoisses, etc. The Montalemberts at La Roche en Brenil have been occupied, but not looted, because they were present when the troops arrived. The Magentas are at Sully, and they too were occupied but not looted. Had I left Antigny, everything we have there would have been at the mercy of the soldiery. As it happened, each Commander, when he left, took pains to leave a written note of thanks in his name and that of his staff officers, and the village authorities have come to beg me not to forsake them, as my example and my presence appears to them to afford a safeguard for the people. If it were possible to establish at Antigny a centre for Red Cross help to the wide region between Semur and Beaune, this might be truly so. I have mentioned this proposal, very briefly to Mr. Wayne Taylor.Wayne Chatfield Taylor (1893–1967), an American economist, banker, and presidential advisor. Between 1940 and 1945, he was undersecretary of commerce. He was also a delegate in France for the American Red Cross. Meantime, the 53,700 francs which Mr. AragonProbably Louis Aragon (1897–1982), a French poet, novelist, and editor. remitted to our OeuvreOeuvre des Maisons Americaines des Convalescence. from the Aldrich CommitteeThe Aldrich Committee, a French and British War Relief Fund founded in 1939 by Winthrop Aldrich (1885–1974), president of Chase National Bank. will be spent on medical aid and milk for young children and babies in Dijon and Beaune where the pinch is most felt at present.

I cannot definitely say that come what may I shall stay on at Antigny, because I can foresee that circumstances may arise that would make it impossible. If the present conditions are maintained, if the ChevreuxThe family of Charles Chevreux (1883–1951), prefect of the Côte-d’Or between 1938 and 1940. remain in the Côte d’Or, and our Embassy is able to keep a kindly eye turned my way, I hope to stay, though life will not be either agreeable or easy, from the personal point of view.

I shall be strengthened and comforted by the knowledge that Bill and Betsy and little RoyallRoyall Tyler (b. 1936), the first child of Bettine Tyler and William Royall Tyler. was born in London. After earning a BA in Far Eastern Languages from Harvard University and a PhD in Japanese literature from Columbia University, he became a scholar and translator of Japanese literature. He presently lives in Australia in New South Wales. and MatildaMatilda Eve Tyler (b. 1939). are safe and near you, and that Royall is able to keep in touch with all those whom I love best in the world. You know that you and Robert are among them. My little nephew Billy,Gerard Blanckenberg de Castel (b. 1918), the son of Elisina Tyler’s brother, Louis de Castelvecchio (1876–1929). is a prisoner in Germany. His colonel wrote me that he had a record of gallantry and devotion to his duty, and that he was not wounded, to the best of his belief, when his detachment was taken. His address is No. 882410, Gunner Gerard De Castle, prisoner of war No. 19742, Stalag IV.B., Germany. I mention this in case it were possible for you to send him through the Red Cross warm winter woolen garments. The Swiss don’t allow woolen garments to be exported, even to prisoners of war. Royall is sending him parcels of food,—without any assurance that he is getting them.

We are greatly saddened by the news that Charles-Louis de VogüéComte Charles-Louis de Vogüé (1914–1940). He was killed in action on May 14, 1940. was killed on May 14th; he drove a tank. He is Diane de Vogüé’sDiane Pastré, comtesse Charles de Vogüé (1888–1971), who lived at the Château de Commarin near Dijon. son; he was a great friend of Bill’s. Georges de Vogüé,Comte Georges de Vogüé (1898–1987). (his uncle) was taken prisoner in Flanders.

Goodbye dearest Mildred and dearest Robert. If you write to me, c/o Freeman Matthews,H. Freeman Matthews (1899–1986), an American diplomat who in 1940–1941 was first secretary in the U.S. embassy in France during the Vichy French government. American Embassy, Vichy, I shall get it sometime. It would bring me great comfort to have your news.

Gioia, Gilly,Gioia Grant Richards Owtram’s daughter, Helen Gillian Owtram.Tommy, and CharlesElisina Tylers son, Charles Geoffrey (1902–1959). and GeoffreyElisina Tyler’s son, Geoffrey Herbert (1906–1983). as well as my sister are well. But no doubt you understand that je ne suis rassurée qu’à demi.“I’m not reassured by half.”

My very best love—

Yours ever devotedly

Elisina