90 and still shining

I was born in 1923 in Luxembourg. My father was Nicolas Joseph Cito from Bascharage. Everybody called him Claus.

Claus Cito

Claus Cito

Claus met a model in Brussels, where he was studying art. When he came back to Luxembourg, wanting me to get solid roots in Luxembourgish ground, he was alone. He was already quite a famous sculptor and painter, my father, and he became even more famous after my birth. He’s the one who made the four statues in the crypt of the splendid cathedral in Luxembourg. Look at him, he looks quite distinguished, don’t you think?

To my father, giving life to me became a symbol of life after so many brave men lost theirs during World War I. He taught me to remember and honour the almost 4000 soldiers from Luxembourg who volunteered to fight for the Allied Powers. More than half of them never returned from the battlefields, which may not seem like much, but remember there weren’t many of us and there still isn’t. At the time, Luxembourg had a population of 266 000.

Then came another war, another occupation. In 1940, the Germans came and took me away.  I wasn’t on their side. It tore me apart and my father too. He was devastated and was never himself again. He died in 1965, to soon to know what had happened to me, and 20 years before I recovered completely from the wounds the Germans inflicted upon me.

Since 1985 I live on top of a 21 metres tall granite building, overlooking my beloved city. The only time I left home was in 2010, when I got to travel to Shanghai to visit the Expo 2010 World Exhibition. What an adventure for an old lady!

Yes, I’m 90 years old now, but my memory is crystal clear. I still remember the soldiers, and soldiers after them, and I still shine with the same glory as when I was made in their honour. Everybody knows me, and they call me Gëlle Fra. The Golden Lady.

I will stay exactly where I am, on Constitution Square, holding on to my laurel wreath, to make sure we never forget.

Gëlle Fra

Gëlle Fra. Photo: Lisbeth Ganer

 

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,

Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.

 They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,

 They fell with their faces to the foe.

–          From “For the Fallen” by Robert Laurence Binyon

By Unni Holtedahl, March 2013

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