French Colonial Settlers Return to Algeria 40 Years Later

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The sprightly Frenchwoman wandered around downtown Algiers, looking for the church where she first took communion as a young girl. It had become a mosque. Her old school was gone too.

Joelle Simon's recent trip to Algeria was an emotional, sometimes painful, journey into memories of the life torn from her more than 40 years ago, when France walked away from the north African country after a bitter eight-year war of independence.

The scars, both for many former colonial settlers and for ties between France and Algeria, have never fully healed. But enough time has passed, and Algerian streets have become safe enough, for Simon and thousands of one-time French settlers to revisit their origins and make their peace.

"Of course we are French," said Simon, 61. "But it's true that this is my country ... My parents, my school, my roots were here."

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