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Interview: Jean-Augustin Bussiere, anti-fascist hero remembered by China, had always been humanist, says his son
From:Xinhua  |  2020-09-21 20:29

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by Xinhua writer Liu Fang

PARIS, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- Jean-Augustin Bussiere (1872-1958), a French doctor who practiced in China from 1913 to 1954 and risked his life along "the hump route by bike," crossing the lines of the invading Japanese army to support the Chinese resistance during the World War II, was an anti-fascist hero and a humanist with a peasant soul, of whom the study of a recently retrieved archive reveals new findings, said Jean-Louis Bussiere when tracing the legend of his father with Xinhua reporters.

"History brought my father into the page of the Chinese people's heroic resistance against the Japanese aggression, as he had always been a humanist, heart open to the poor and the suffering, not only in the context of war," said Jean-Louis, a 65-year-old cardiologist, or "Doctor B. junior" as cordially called by the Chinese.

For the Chinese people, "Doctor B." is a dear appellation inscribed both in memory and on monuments.

In the hills in western Beijing, the Bussiere Garden was referred to as "Family B.'s Garden" by the local people ever since its construction, where Doctor B. resided and treated, without charge, local villagers as well as wounded soldiers of the Eighth Route Army during the war. It is now on the list of historical and cultural sites under the protection of Beijing municipality.

At the foot of the hills where locates the garden, a stone arch bridge, built in 1931 to facilitate Doctor B.'s trips to see his patients in nearby villages, had "Doctor B. Bridge" in Chinese characters inscribed on the stone parapet on each side. Later when a new road and a new bridge was built at the same site, local people had exactly the same inscription engraved on a new stone on one side, and the story of Doctor B. on the other side.

The heroic act is known to many in China: a doctor from France, about 70 years old, pedalling through some 40 kilometers of bumpy muddy road barricaded by Japanese checkpoints, to carry medical materials from central Beijing to his residence in Xishan in Beijing's Western Hills, where batches of precious supplies would be collected by anti-Japanese guerrillas and sent into resistance bases to save countless lives.

Jean-Louis, born in France and losing his father at infant age, started passionately digging into the legend only in the last decade when five boxes of archives left by Doctor B. were retrieved.

Thousands of pieces of well preserved letters, pictures, manuscripts and official documents led to the fascinating discovery of father by son. "I am never tired of looking into this treasure," he said. "It always tells you something new to know."

"My father has always been a humanist, not only in the context of war. He had an affection for the Chinese people and in particular for the peasants who lived around the hills, because he rediscovered this peasant soul that he had known in his childhood in Creuse in the center of France," said Doctor B. junior.

As typical for an inland area of continental Europe, Creuse is a region of rolling hills intersected by often steep valleys, with relatively cold winters and hot summers, a landscape and climate that Doctor B. would have known in Beijing's Western Hills.

Now the amateur archivist has more details to share about "the hump route by bike" story. "As the Japanese tightened control in China and banned people's movement, my father could not travel by car. There was no more gasoline. Often with his driver, the two ride bicycles to bring medicines and bandages into the hills, an act that lasted until the end of the war," he told Xinhua.

In 2015, at a ceremony in Beijing commemorating the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War, Doctor B. junior came across Mr. Lindsay junior.

The Lindsay couple from Britain taught English in China in the 1930s. When the Japanese army invaded China, they took refuge at the dispensary of Doctor B. before traveling to Yan'an, home of the resistance.

"Jim Lindsay was born and raised up in Yan'an. He told me that 'if your father had not been there, I would not exist.' It was a very strong moment for me," said Jean-Louis.

Present at the ceremony were several westerners who shared stories of their family members joining hands with the Chinese to drive the Japanese invaders out of China. Facing these "pieces of history very little known in France," Doctor B. junior developed a more global view of the anti-fascist movement.

"People here think the war started in 1939, not in 1937, because that was what happened on the European front. However, Germany was allied with Japan, which, with its ambition to take all the territories over China and other countries in Asia, started this global conflict in 1937, and the war continued on Asian territory despite the signatures of peace accord on the Western side." he said.

"Moreover, unlike the reconciliation achieved by European countries, there is still a certain tension between China and Japan because certain Japanese have not officially recognized the fact that the war was not a good thing nor their involvement," he added.

Less gatherings are on the agenda for the 75th anniversary of the victory of the World Anti-Facist War due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For Doctor B. junior, this circumstance highlights the need of the spirit that his father had manifested during the wartime.

"We have an invisible enemy in front of us, it is like a war," said the doctor. "Faced with a threat hanging over the whole world, we must unite and join forces in researching and improving the quality of care to overcome the epidemic." Enditem