November 1st 1954 is a date which means a lot to Algerians. In that date, after more than a century of colonial tyranny, the Algerian people decided to regain its freedom and rose against the French colonizer. Sixty years after, memories of the war are fading away and Nov. 1st has less to evoke today than what it used to.
For my father, stories of the war of independence keep coming back to haunt him. But my father is a guy who keeps things to himself. Fortunately, my grand mother may Allah bless her soul was there to tell me stories about him. She used to pull out an old shoe box where she kept few old photographs and letters that she cherished more than anything else. She would tell me how the moudjahidin used to wait for the night in the surrounding mountains, and furtively sneak into the village to get food and rest, or how the French soldiers used to break in our house looking for my father and not to leave until they sack and ramp everything around.
She used to hold the only picture of my uncle in both of her frail hands, free few tear drops and tell me how he was taken for never to come back.
Stories like these and those untold abound in my village.
My village is full of places and names that recount events that marked the little guy I was for years. It has a street called zenqat el moudjahidin and 3agbat hda3ch (trail of the eleven) of the eleven soldiers who were ambushed and killed by the moudjahidin. We have blacet el boumba (the bomb’s place) where a bomb exploded and destroyed a whole quarter to leave a wide place in it. Around the village, there is jbal echouahada (the mount of the martyrs) and wad elharba (the escape valley).
But for my generation, the most vivid memories we have about November 1st have been the time-worn black and white movies that the Algerian TV kept broadcasting for the occasion. The one clip that stuck in my memory for ever is the one showing the moudjahidin marching up the mountain at sunrise and singing:
من جبالنا طلع صوت الأحرار
خـــيــر مــــن الحـــيـــــــــاة
That song still has an effect on me today. I may feel a bit nostalgic about those times, but I doubt today’s youth show the same attachment to that past. Haunted by the memories of more recent events, they are turning towards the future with newer songs, their own: 1, 2, 3 viva l’Algérie.