Almost a month ago the French cyclist Jonas Berto left his hometown to travel around Europe in a long-range bike ride to the jubilee of the Normandie-Niemen Fighter Regiment.
Stunned by the heroism of Soviet and French soldiers.
Having 2,800km behind his back and 2,200km ahead the French traveler arrived to Brest on Monday, 20 August.
The idea behind the cycling expedition is to commemorate the heroic pilots and mechanics of the Normandie-Niemen Fighter Regiment.
The legendary fighter unit of the French Air Force fought against the Nazis alongside the Soviet-German soldiers during the Second World War.
France, Belarus and brotherhood
“I come from the city of Mont-de-Marsan.
This is where Normandie-Niemen Regiment is based now and where the memorial expedition has started.
The idea was supported by the memorial organization, which is engaged in preserving the memory of the military unit.
I think the French know little about the history of this unit and the Belarusian-Russian-French combat brotherhood.
The brotherhood that was tempered by such combat units, and whose friendship was sealed by numerous victims and blood.
I believe that my mission will be fulfilled if people know more about the Normandie-Niemen Fighter Regiment.”
Jonas’ travelling schedule is rather tight. He covers about 100km a day and from time to time has to sacrifice his sleep to fit in.
Living conditions are also quite spartan. Most nights Jonas spends outdoors and on the ground, sleeping either in a tent or in his sleeping bag.
His daily menu consists of dry soup and canned food that he warms up on the burner.
Actually, lack of comfort is not a problem for Jonas, military training helps him a lot. In the past, he was a professional soldier serving for the French Foreign Legion.
“There were many Russians and Belarusians in the foreign legion. We taught each other languages, but as time went on I, unfortunately, forgot everything I learned.”
Stopovers in Brest and Minsk
The Frenchman has already crossed the borders of Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Poland. Ahead is Belarus and Russia.
“After Belarus, I’m going to Russia, to the city of Ivanovo, where the regiment landed for the first time on Soviet soil.
Then I have a meeting in Yaroslavl with the last surviving Russian mechanic, who was in this regiment. I will finish my trip in Moscow.”
After Brest, the Frenchman is going to Minsk.
“It is very important for me to stay Brest and Minsk, visit the museum of the Great Patriotic War and the grave of a French pilot in the village of Stefanovo.
My goal is to honour the memory of the Belarusian and Russian people who contributed to the fight against fascism and supported the Normandie-Niemen regiment in its combat mission.”