Family of Raritan's Anthony Musz Reconnects with
Belgium Family that Anthony met During the War
|Last year the Breeze ran a story about the World War II experiences of Raritan’s Anthony Musz who served in the Army in Europe. Anthony, who died in 1986, seldom spoke about the war so his story was put together utilizing a scrapbook that Anthony had compiled with letters written home to Raritan’s Tony Orlando during the war. An important part of his wartime experience was that he made friends with a Belgium family during his time in Belgium. The friendship began late in 1944 as U.S. troops marched toward Germany through Belgium. The Germans had conquered and occupied Belgium for several years. As the U.S. forces liberated the Belgium towns, the people were very grateful to the troops who drove the hated Germans out of their country. The U.S. troops remained in Belgium to rest and re-supply for a few months before moving into Germany. It was during this time period that many U.S. soldiers made friends with the Belgium families who opened their homes to the American soldiers and helped them in any way they could.
|Anthony Musz’s scrapbook has several photos of the Belgium family he became close friends with. Their names and locations were written on the back of each photo. The Estievenart family lived in Jambes, Belgium consisting of Mom, Dad, 4 daughters and 2 sons. In his letters. Anthony often wrote about them, calling the Mom his “Laundry Lady” as she did all his laundry. His writings also show that she and her family were much more than that as he spent a lot of time visiting them writing “I get to stay with 4 lovely girls.” Some of the photos in his scrapbook show him and his army buddy at Christmas dinner with them. As an example of how close he was to them, one photo has him holding hands with 2 of the daughters. Another photo, which is displayed here, is a photo of Anthony and the youngest daughter - 5 year old Jacqueline. Here Anthony is holding a puppy and a smiling while Jacqueline has her arm around him. That photo captivated this author and Anthony Musz’s (identical twin) daughters Cathy and Cindy. We wondered if this young girl and any of her siblings are alive today? Would they remember Anthony?
|This author, together with Anthony’s daughters, decided to search for the Estievenart family. Our initial attempt would be through FACEBOOK. Using just the last name, we initially found several matches. The FACEBOOK privacy setting - always changing and ever confusing – seem to be in my favor as I have access to almost all of the profiles and it looks promising since the name Estievenart is almost exclusively for people in Belgium. But as I page (yes page) through the matches I saw that this name is very popular in Belgium with at least 50 matches displayed. We decide to send messages through FACEBOOK with the old photo of Anthony and Jacqueline explaining who we are looking for and why. But do they speak English in Belgium? A quick Wikipedia lookup shows they speak Dutch and French. So my message is translated into 2 other languages using Google Translate. I sent messages to 30 Estievenarts and waited for a response. My previous experience with messages (through my historical work) has shown that half of people respond to cold FACEBOOK messages even if it is to say they are not the right person. However, in this case, I do not get a single response. Perhaps there is a different culture in Belgium that does not respond to messages from strangers like me. Or maybe FACEBOOK has a filter in Belgium and the messages are not going through? The reason is unimportant as a zero response, is a zero response.
|I abandoned the FACEBOOK approach and use the Internet to try to obtain an address for the family. Here in the U.S., there is the “whitepages.com” which is very useful in finding address. Is there anything similar in Belgium? After various types of searches on the search engines I am delighted to find two addresses for Estievenart families in Jambes, Belgium. We send our note in 3 languages in the regular mail with copies of old photos. I provide all my contact information. After a couple weeks with no response, we feel that our letter, a long shot to begin with, has not found the right family. However, a month later, a letter with a Belgium return address arrived at my home. I quickly open it to find copies of photos of Anthony Musz and a handwritten letter in French. The handwriting is a bit hard to read thus I cannot get the exact spelling of most words so Google Translate is not a good option here. I scan in the letter and email it to Anthony’s daughter’s Cathy and Cindy. I follow it up with a call to them. Do they know anyone who reads French? Fortunately a friend of theirs who knows French just left their home – and a quick call gets the friend back to the house to translate the letter.
|With the translation we learn that our letter had reached a woman who had married one the of Estievenart son’s. However, he has now passed away. She says that she was around during the war and remembers Anthony as he was a good friend. She informs us that the other son and two of the daughters are still alive. The one daughter alive is Jacqueline who is in the photo that inspired us. She gave us the address of the surviving son whose name is Ferdinand. We mailed him a letter. After only two weeks we received a letter back from Ferdinand (in English) informing us that Anthony was an intimate friend whom they loved dearly. Anthony had spent a lot of time at their house – and was very fond of the girls – and the girls were fond of him. He remembers that Anthony brought chocolate to the youngest girl Jacqueline. These treats were indeed special as Belgium was a country recovering from years of brutal occupation by the Germans, thus such small pleasures as chocolates were scare. Ferdinand went on to say that he, who was 17 years old then, joined up with the U.S. Army when they moved on to Germany. Many Belgium boys were glad to join the fight against their previous oppressors.
|A week later we received an email (yes an email - no more long waits between letters going across the ocean) from a gentleman named Luc who informed us that his wife is the Jacqueline from the photo we had first sent to the family. We email him back with a few questions and ask for a photo of Jacqueline today. Surprisingly, we get no response even as we send additional emails. A couple months later, I did receive an email with a photo attached. Before reading the email I open the photo. I am intrigued to see that the new photo of the 72 year old Jacqueline does show a resemblance to that of the 5 year old Jacqueline from our old photo. But, I sadly notice that the new photo is from a funeral card. When I read the email Luc explains that his wife Jacqueline, who had been ill for a long time, passed away a couple weeks ago. He tells us that she did see the article on the Internet about Anthony Musz with the photos of him and her family. Luc says it pleased her a great deal to see the story. We emailed him back to express our sorrows and to thank him for the photo.
|The brother Ferdinand, who previously wrote a letter to us, told us that the next time he comes to this country (to visit his daughter who lives in the U.S.) he would very much like to meet with Anthony’s daughters. Ferdinand’s daughter spoke with Anthony’s daughter to get information for the upcoming meeting. She said that her father Ferdinand had been absolutely amazed and thrilled that the family of Anthony Musz had contacted them. He looks forward to someday meeting with Anthony’s daughters. It should be a unique meeting indeed.