From Strasbourg, France to Strasburg, Illinois

Jean-Yves Bart in front of the community center in Strasburg. Submitted photo.

Jean-Yves Bart, 34, grew up in Châteauneuf-le-Rouge, a small town near Aix-en-Provence in France, and then in Gradignan, a suburban mid-sized town near Bordeaux.

He has lived in Cork, Ireland and Vienna, Austria for a year each. He holds masters degrees in English (University of Bordeaux) and Professional Translation (University of Strasbourg).

He has called Strasbourg, France his home for the past 11 years.

During one of his eight trips to the United States, he noticed a sign for a town named “Strasburg.” He did some investigating and found several places in the world, 16 in all, currently or previously named Strasbourg or Strasburg.

To pay homage to his current hometown of Strasbourg, France, he decided to visit each of these places, find out their history and record it. He hopes to someday write a book about all the Strasb(o)urgs.

Jean-Yves spent April 13-18 visiting Strasburg, Illinois. His time was spent visiting local residents, farms, Stewardson-Strasburg School, village board meeting, local businesses including 32 Below, York Bin Co., Effingham Equity Elevator, Post Office, Shelby County State Bank, Strasburg Short Stop and Subway.

An open house reception was held on Sunday, April 15, at the Community Center, where Jean-Yves gave a brief history of Strasbourg and how the city has changed countries between Germany and France over the years. He was presented with a gift of a Strasburg Gnome by Jane Giertz, representing the Strasburg Community Action Network.

He will now travel to Strasburgs in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. His 2018 trip will conclude his visits to all the Strasb(o)urgs in North America.

Question: What have you found interesting, unusual, or unexpected about Strasburg, Ill.?

Answer: I was expecting much more decay and depression than I actually found, somehow. Not because of prejudice (at least I’d like to think so), but from observing that a lot of small towns everywhere are struggling to survive and will have every other place on their main street boarded up, but this is definitely not the case here, which has been a pleasant surprise. Having such a nice bar (32 Below) in a village like this is also remarkable. I also discovered the word ‘moraine’, got spat at by an alpaca, was given my own gnome, and spent more time in a gas station (Marathon) than I ever have in my life. So that’s all been a good learning experience.

Question: How has your experience been in Strasburg, Ill.? What did you like best about the village?

Answer: The hospitality and generosity of everyone who met with me have been beyond my wildest expectations, and previous Strasburgs had already raised the bar pretty high on that front. I worry that I’m going to have to buy a second suitcase just to store all my presents, but I suppose there are much worse things to worry about! I got a kick out of meeting the mailman, too, as I did that job briefly in a previous life and have always been strangely fascinated by mail. As in many of my travels for this project so far, I got to meet a variety of people whose lives are undoubtedly very different from my own in a lot of ways, and seeing things from their perspectives and having them meet me halfway has been inspiring. Sparking people’s curiosity about their own histories has also been a nice, unexpected side effect of the whole project.

For the past few days Strasburg residents have enjoyed visiting with Jean-Yves and reviewing their own history. Check out more pictures on Strasburg, IL Facebook group or Gnorman, the Strasburg Gnome FB page.

Au revoir mon ami! Until we meet again!

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