Helping to heal the scars of war with inspired play

FLORENCE Teillet's footsteps grew heavier as her father Jean's wartime suffering dogged her every stride.

Florence's journey began in 2004 when she was researching the stories of elderly migrants.

This inspired her to ask her father to tell his story from the Second World War.

"At 17, a French resistance fighter, he was captured and sent to German concentration camps for two years," she said.

"At the end of the war he escaped and walked for two months back home to freedom.

"He wrote a journal of his experiences, complete with maps and drawings."

In 2005, Florence used this as a guide to retrace his journey 60 years to the day.

Six months later, her father died.

"I'm so grateful I did that journey," she said.

Florence then had the arduous task of translating his memoirs, a difficult experience taking about three years.

She also found letters written by her from the age of 10 in her father's flat.

"Every time I was going through a box of tissues," she said.

The documents have formed the basis of the first draft of the play She Walks Beside His Shoes.

The play explores the impact the traumatic experience had on Florence's relationship with her father as she retraced his journey - walked beside his shoes.

Florence Teillet with her dad in Orange, France.
Florence Teillet with her dad in Orange, France. Contributed

It also reflects on her experience as a migrant artist who has called Australia home for the past 28 years.

"It is a unique and moving story of a father and daughter, of human survival, and the role humour, luck and stubbornness play in it," she said.

"It is also a story of friends as family and the need for belonging, of Australia as a place of refuge, peace and new beginnings."

Florence will present her work-in-progress tomorrow in Yandina, hoping it will encourage people to donate and help finish the play.

Once complete, she will perform it in Sunshine Coast theatres and schools, aspiring to one day head to Brisbane.

"My main goal is to inspire people; there are many family stories that are not shared," Florence said.

"Dad didn't want to talk for years. When he turned 79 he was ready to talk. I was so glad I asked him.

"What I'm trying to show is how my relationship with my dad was affected by what he went through.

"People don't realise how much we are affected by conflict and war.

"He described what he went through; it was emotional, but very healing for our relationship.

"I think it was healing for him, that's why he was able to go peacefully."

The project has been funded by the Sunshine Coast Regional Arts Development Fund and is a Sunshine Coast Council and Queensland Government partnership to support local arts and culture.

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