When Francis de Marneffe left home in the spring of 1940, he was still a few weeks shy of his 16th birthday. Armed with a knapsack containing all of his possessions and a mere 500 francs, de Marneffe fled Brussels in the hopes of aiding the Belgium war effort in France. Little did he know that it would be another five years before he would be reunited with his family.
Over 70 years later, Dr. de Marneffe still has a twinkle in his eye when recalling his youthful journey into adulthood— and a stern, knowing tenor to his voice only a man who has seen effects of war can convey. Students listened closely in morning meeting to his tense journey through Europe , which to this day “remains as clear [in his mind] as if it happened yesterday.” Many nights he had to rely on the hospitality of strangers to have a roof over his head—other times he slept in cars. He recalled the thousands of refugees he passed trying to escape the approaching Nazi forces. As the minutes in the morning meeting ticked passed, the trials of World War II began to fade in the minds of students as an abstraction contained solely in books, to be replaced by a vivid, dynamic vessel of living history.