donderdag 7 mei 2015

WSGA- The Movie!

WORLD's SMALLEST GRANDE ARMEE is now a 100min documentary.

Two guys, obsessed by history, undertake the voyage of their life: on foot from Moscow to Vilnius. They intend to follow the trace of Napoleon, more specifically of the soldiers of the Grande Armée, an international hodgepodge that conquered Moscow in 1812 just before their French leader led them into a tragic defeat against Russia. 

Dimi and Karsten walk a thousand kilometers along places long forgotten by Western Europeans, towns and former battlefields with names that once were synonym for military hardship, for cold and disaster, for the rawest denial of human dignity. Four million footsteps and the beginning of a winter on unknown soil separate our self-proclaimed two-man-army from its goal. All they have is a pair of good legs, a tent and a little guitar. Oh yeah, and a pastiche uniform of a French grenadier!

So bring on the vodka! Light the campfire! Prepare yourselves for the sweet adventures and the unlikely encounters of two recreational historians with a good morale and a sack of songs, two fellows in search of one of the darkest pages in modern history. For this is... Napoleon's horror march revisited!

woensdag 26 december 2012

‎"Gezellig getikt" is what they called us on thursday 13th of december at café Corsari. Means as much as "crazy but harmless". Since we never carried any weapons (an oddity for an army), 'harmless' is exactly what we wanted to be. 
(Translation in Russian will be provided in due time.)

You can watch us through this link...

donderdag 13 december 2012

World's Smallest Grande Armee is back in Belgium, enjoying family life again. Our crazy journey has come to an end. We would like to thank all people who supported us throughout the trip, not only those who actually gave us hospitality, but also our supporters at home. You were all fantastic!!! And what to think of Karsten's sister Anne, who made these wonderful pictures!

"This way to Vilnius?"

"Or that way?"

Belgian press paid some attention to our exploit. Here is an article about us in Antwerp's Newspaper "Gazet van Antwerpen". 

Here's another article, from Het Laatste Nieuws. The nice thing is that the same picture keeps coming back: with Freya in the snow! We walked in these conditions only for two days, but apparently this is the image that people want to see when thinking of a Grande-Armee-Moscow-Retreat-Re-enactment! "Oh you must have frozen to death?!" "Well... actually... It wasn't THAT bad..."

They call it a "Horror-journey". May well have been so for Napoleon and his 600.000 friends, but that's not how WE felt about the trip. The only horror experience we had was when we met this Afghan veteran. He showed us a bullet scar in his neck. Pretty scary! He was friendly at first, but he turned into an animal when after we had entered his house. Luckily Dimi had a better shot. Say no more...

Oh yeah... Tonight we'll be at Café Corsari on Eén TV! We'll post an internet video shortly, if it's available...

donderdag 6 december 2012


Werelds Kleinste Grande Armée stapte 1000 kilometer in de voetsporen van Napoleon

Werelds Kleinste Grande Armée sluit haar tocht van meer dan 1000 km af - Zondag 9 december om 17 u aan de vlam van de onbekende soldaat in de Koninklijke straat te Brussel

Na een vijftigtal dagen in de voetsporen van Napoleon's Grande Armée te hebben gestapt, hebben Dimi Dumortier en Karsten De Vilder, samen ‘Werelds Kleinste Grande Armée’ eindelijk Vilnius bereikt. De enige rekruten van dit kleine leger vertrokken, net als Napoleon 200 jaar eerder, op 17 oktober uit Moskou. Ze legden sindsdien meer dan 1000 kilometer af, ploeterend in de groeven van de geschiedenis, in weer en wind, door stad en land en vooral, voet voor voet. Op zondag 9 december 2012 om 17.00 brengt 's Werelds Kleinste Grande Armée eer aan de vergeten helden met een afsluitende ceremonie aan de vlam van de onbekende soldaat in de Koninklijke straat te Brussel. 

Destijds kwam slechts 10 procent van de Grande Armée na een reis door verwoest en bevroren gebied meer dood dan levend in Vilnius aan en werd er meteen door de kozakken weer uitgejaagd. Dimi Dumortier en Karsten de Vilder daarentegen werden onder andere in Troitsk, Malojaroslavets, Smolensk, Orsha en aan de Berezina als helden ontvangen.

Zij beschouwen deze pelgrimstocht als een eerbetoon aan de vele niet-Fransen zoals Jozef Abbeel, Jozef Van de Vel en Karel Wagevier, die destijds, vaak gedwongen, deelnamen aan deze waanzinnige veldtocht. Met name de 50.000 Belgen en Nederlanders, waarvan een overgroot deel een onbekend graf kreeg en maar een handvol terugkeerde, willen zij aan de vergetelheid ontrukken in het herdenkingsjaar 2012.

Karsten de Vilder en Dimi Dumortier richtten in 2011 Dikadoku op. Dikadoku is een onafhankelijk audiovisueel productiebedrijf gevestigd in Antwerpen. Dikadoku’s belangrijkste doel is het creëren en produceren van documentaires die reizen, cultuur, muziek, survival, kunst en humor combineren. Dikadoku legt de nadruk op een eigentijdse en enigszins geestige kijk op de wereld.

In 2012 maakten ze, samen met Phara De Aguirre, de Koppen reportage ‘Ik dus naar Compostella’. Twee belangrijke projecten worden behandeld op dit moment, 'Hitchtanbul' en '1812 '.

'Hitchtanbul' is een co-productie met Sylvester Productions. Voor '1812 ‘ is Dikadoku nog op zoek naar co-producenten en andere participanten.


Gert Van Daele

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Yesterday with professor Jankauskas from Vilnius university faculty of medicine. He co-directed the excavation of some 3000 dead french soldiers from the Grande Armee. Here we are holding the skull of one of them, I think he was called Henri. Or was it Laurent??

woensdag 5 december 2012

World's Smallest Grande Armee proudly announces her triumphant arrival in Vilnius, the ending point of the journey she started 50 days ago in Moscou!! The only two members of this minuscule army were greatly supported by Freya, a small carriage they found in the woods of Semlevo, between Vyazma and Smolensk, and that kept on carrying their load for nearly a month. The last days in Belarus and Lithuania were particularely difficult due to the changed weather conditions. Heavy snowfall and frost are not exactly the conditions for which Freya was constructed. But turning her into a snow sledge was too much hassle for the exhausted soldiers of WSGA. Yesterday evening Freya was parked right under the huge Christmas tree near Vilnius' Bell Tower. 

Crossing the border to Lithuania took WSGA exactly 30 minutes and aroused only smiles and handshakes of the astonished border officials. Who says Belarusian custom procedures are a drag? You'll never hear that from our side! Our luggage wasn't even checked.

WSGA wishes to thank all the people who helped them make her journey possible. Here we are with Lucie, a fantastic Lithuanian woman who gave us shelter on our last day.

Our last busstop picknick was turned into a wonderful event by Kiryl, the second co-walker on our crazy trip. Kiryl made an extroardinary move towards the local youth, giving them a history lesson they are not likely to forget. Tomorrow's grafiti on the wall behind Dimi will certainly be nothing less than 'VIVE L'EMPEREUR'!!

Fjodor (Theodore pour les amis) was WSGA's very first co-walker, accompanying us from Smarghon to Osjmianets. The Grande Armee's bivouacs on that stretch of road have no secrets for Fjodor, who gladly told us all the details. He even knew the exact places where the restaurants stood in those days. We looked for more modern ones to quench our thirst and hunger, but unluckily found none. Sadly, this means that business on the Grande Armee's road is going downward.

And here's one more guy we want to thank from the bottom of our heart, for he made our journey through Belarus an incredible succession of hospitable meetings and events. Anatoli (Tolek pour les amis) from Borisov!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a friend!!!!!!  

donderdag 29 november 2012

World's Smallest Grande Armee survived the battle of the Berezina. Building the bridge was the toughest part. Here we are, still wondering if it would'nt be better to take the ferry.

The day before we had been given a course in warfare by skilled re-enactors from Borisov. The T-shirts are part of the training. The hammer is not heading for Karstens head but to the rear of the cannon.

Anyway, here's an account of the battle itself. As you will see, WSGA did not pass unnoticed.

This picture of WSGA was taken the day after the battle. Unimaginable, but the snow fell overnight. It would have been so much more beautiful if the snow had covered the battlefield. Now there was no snow, and no bridges either. But great fun anyhow! Thanks to the 8ieme de Ligne who let us 'fight' in their regiment!