Roe Jan reaches across ‘pond’

COPAKE – During World War II the only parts of Great Britain ever occupied by the Nazi army were the tiny channel islands of Jersey and Guernsey. One of the stories of this occupation, recounted in the historical novel “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,” was the subject of the Community Reads Project of the Roeliff Jansen Community Library and the Taconic Hills Central School.

Providing a human scale to Saturday morning’s discussion at the library was an interactive video conference with Guernsey residents who were children during the German occupation. A large video screen installed in the community room brought the group together with Molly Bihet and June Money who were both born in Guernsey. They appeared together on the screen with Chief Librarian Amanda Bennett and Deputy Chief Librarian Sue Laker in a video conference from the Priaulx Library in St. Peter Port, Guernsey.

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A vintage photo of German soldiers marching past at St George’s Esplanade on Guernsey Island in Great Britain. Photo contributed

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Standing close to the microphone in order to be better heard, Chris Atkins of Hillsdale thanks the citizens of Guernsey for their time and recollections, (l to r) June Money, Molly Bihet and Priaulx Library Deputy Chief Librarian Sue Laker. Photo by David Lee

Ms. Bihet and Ms. Money were both young children when the German army marched into St. Peter Port and have both have published stories of the occupation. Their recollections brought new immediacy to the Community Reads assigned novel which is set in 1946 Britain and tells a story of community under increasingly harsh occupation.

The idea for the video conference came from Chris Atkins and his wife Lauren Letellier who are Hillsdale residents and library volunteers. “We were so pleased with the turnout on Saturday, and the overwhelmingly positive feedback we’ve received from attendees since,” said Ms. Letellier. “This video conference was a bit of a test for us and as it went so well, we hope to do more in the future. It’s a wonderful way to connect with people and cultures from around the globe, and bring the world to Hillsdale,”

This is the second year of the Community Reads Program, a combined effort of the Taconic Hills Central School District with the Roeliff Jansen Community Library, the Claverack Free Library and the Philmont Public Library to foster community through the reading and discussion of a common book. With the sponsorship of the Claverack Free Library, elementary school children read a book called “The Wishing Spell,” middle school children read the book called “Wonder,” and high school students read “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The program includes a six-week series of events, art projects, games and films.

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