War takes no prisoners in its path, razing everything to the ground. No one wins and the collateral damage of war leaves a lasting mark, not only in those who actively participated in it, but also to the battlefield where it took place.
After World War I, nine villages in France suffered tremendous damage and was declared uninhabitable – places which held memories of a life before tragedy struck. It was considered too costly to rebuild and too risky to even come near.
Over the last 100 years, only one of the destroyed villages has been reconstructed. Another two have been partially rebuilt, but the remaining six, including Fleury-devant-Douaumont, sit uninhabited within France’s Zone Rouge, or Red Zone.
But there is hope:
In the ghost villages of the Red Zone, nature also thrives. In the decades after the war, millions of saplings – including thousands of Austrian pines given as war reparations by Vienna – were planted in and around the cratered trenches. Today these stalwart pines share the land with some of the same species of magnificent oak and horse chestnut that made their way to Britain.
It is true, as it is written in the article, that nature and life always find a way.
(Image credit: Melissa Banigan)