French town honors enduring relationship with Meadville

In mid-April, I traveled from Paris, where I am currently living, to Fismes on the invitation of Fismes Mayor Jean-Pierre Pinon. There I was part of a planning session to create a World War I memorial site in Fismes. The session brought local and national politicians together with local and regional community partners and war veterans. I attended as someone who lives in Meadville and works at Allegheny College, from where we send a French major each year to complete an internship in Fismes. Meadville and Fismes have enjoyed an historic friendship reaching back to the World War I era, one that lives on today.

Fismes is a town of 5,500 in the Champagne-Ardenne region. It is crossed by the Vesle River and surrounded by rolling colza and wheat fields. The town’s name derives from the Latin “Ad Fines” — at the outer limits of. In its origins, Fismes was situated at the outer limits of the territories of two Gallic tribes from which the neighboring cities of Soissons and Reims derive their names.

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Laura Reeck lives in Meadville with her husband and three children. She is a professor of French and International Studies at Allegheny College. She is living and researching in France this year while on sabbatical leave.