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Short Story Competition 2023 School Year 4-5 Highly Commended Alexander James Perry ‘Baptiste’s Journey’

Photo by Johnny Bugeja

Once upon a time there was a thirteen-year-old boy called Baptiste who lived in French Alps. He studied well and was the best swimmer in the class. His mother was French, and his father was Italian. He became friends with a boy who was Swedish in his class and so he started studying Swedish. His mum was telling him that he would never need Swedish, but Baptiste was not listening and kept studying. Baptiste played with his Swedish friend Tait who was very sporty too.
When Baptiste was fifteen the Second World War began. Italy invaded French Alps. His father Arman was jailed by the French for being Italian. His mother Arana decided to flee France. Baptiste told his mum that they should go to Sweden because Sweden was not occupied by Germans, and it was safe. He learned that from his friend Tait. His mother was a teacher of French language at school and his mum didn't want to go to Sweden because it would be very hard to find a job and that no one would want to learn French in the Second World War.
One day a bomb fell on their neighbor's house and everybody in the house died. It was Tait's house, and he was only 15. It was very scary, and they decided that they were going to go to Sweden. Baptiste had to drop his school. It took them three weeks to get to Sweden by train and then by boat and they were out of money, so they decided that Baptiste was going to feed the family by being a swimming instructor to Swedish children because he spoke Swedish.
He was teaching swimming from 5 am till 3:30 pm. But being a swimming instructor wasn't enough, so Baptiste started also working as a chef assistant in the evenings for three restaurants.
When the war ended his father was released and joined them in Sweden and they opened a French restaurant together, rented a nice house and went on holidays to America.

Judge Charlie Durante’s Comments:

Highly Commended: Alexander James Perry with Baptiste’s Journey. It’s incredible that in the global age, and after the digital revolution, there are still dissenting voices in Gibraltar about the need to learn, speak and write Spanish. Alexander’s inspiring story should be an object lesson in the utility of learning and practising as many languages as possible.

Baptiste learns Swedish with his friend, even though his mother thinks the language will never prove useful. A series of events: the outbreak of war, his father’s arrest, the tragic death of his Swedish friend, make it imperative for them to seek a better and safer life in Sweden, a neutral country, unoccupied by the Germans. Once there, Baptiste can work as a swimming instructor, and as an assistant chef, all made possible by his ability to speak and understand Swedish!

Well done, Alexander, and I sincerely hope those language bigots will overcome their linguistic prejudice.

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