“You have to take advantage of it, this beautiful freedom. This is what Edith Blais wrote on Facebook on March 24. Three years have passed since she fled the camp where she was held captive for 450 days in the Sahara desert. Three years of happiness, freedom and good times…
On the table in front of us, Edith Blais delicately unfolds the pieces of cardboard on which her poems are written, the only objects she kept from her captivity. Several, such as Wild Soul and Death, were written on tea can wrappers. Others, on sardine can wrappers.
She managed to save 57 of her writings by fleeing. However, there are only about ten left today. It is that she burned several of them, after having transcribed them on the computer during the writing of her book published in 2021, The hourglass: hostage of the Sahara for 450 days. Her mother, who surprised her, urged her to save some, Edith Blais laughs.
Our meeting takes place in her apartment in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, where she has been living with her boyfriend, Pierre-Luc Bissonnette, since October. Each room of the cozy accommodation is decorated with a few plants, recalling the woman’s affection for nature and life. If Edith Blais has agreed to receive us, it is because she wishes to give hope to those who are going through dark times.
“I find it encouraging for people to see that I’m doing well,” she says. People who have difficulties, I like that they see that it’s not going to stay black all the time. »
Edith Blais has often told her story over the past few years. Captured by jihadists, she and her Italian companion (Luca Tacchetto) suffered for months in the oppressive heat of the desert. Often deprived of food, they spent entire weeks doing nothing except opening and closing their eyes.
To reflect on.
To wait for.
On March 13, 2020, the duo fled their jailers. Three years later, Edith Blais is enjoying the bonus time she so longed for. “There, I can do whatever I want!” she exclaims.
“I look at people who have really [eventful] lives, chasing after their tails. It moves so much, it goes so fast. […] Me, I’m happy not to be in there. I do what I want, but I am responsible. I still do what I need to do, but I enjoy life. I really do what I want to do. »
Edith Blais called March 13 “Freedom Day”. Every year, she highlights it on her Facebook page dedicated to her art — and she sends a note to Luca. “We wish each other a nice day,” she said.
Edith Blais has always been a traveler and a loner at heart. “I like to walk alone in nature, to think, to go to the edge of the river, to touch water. This is my breath of fresh air flavored with freedom,” she explains.
After regaining her freedom, lost for too long, she quickly regained a taste for travel and discovery. Driven by the need to “get a taste of real life”, she visited the Gaspé with her sister, before returning to Jasper, her second home.
Two years ago, she met her boyfriend, who had just bought a motor home. Together, they traveled from one end of Quebec to the other. In January 2022, they took the road to the United States. North Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, California, Utah, Nevada… “We had a great ride. They spent the summer working in Western Canada.
When asked if she feels her relationship to travel has changed, Edith Blais instantly answers yes. “Before, I was very reckless. When I was younger, I was agoraphobic. Fear really bothered me. At some point, I said to myself: I’d rather die than be afraid to live. I was sick of not being able to go out. At that time, I went on a trip. Fear, I had completely eliminated that. Ultimately, I put myself in risky situations. »
Today, she says, she travels with her “new vision.” More mature, she has nothing more to prove. “I think I’m calculating a little more. There’s no point in throwing myself into the mouth of the wolf all the time. »
She has no plans to return to Africa, even though her sister and mother have both been there in the past few months. “I wouldn’t do that to my family, I think. If it was just me and there was no one else watching and judging me…” she drops out laughing.
Even though Edith Blais emphasizes her regained freedom each year, her long misadventure no longer occupies her thoughts or even her discussions. Time has done its job, as it is known to do.
“It was so weird, so out of the ordinary, that I feel like it was a dream. […] I feel like it’s been 10 years since I’ve been out because it seems so far away and unreal. »
“That story, as bizarre as it was, is not the story that has marked me the most in my life,” she adds. I was pretty well equipped to get through that. »
Edith Blais and her husband plan to open a small vegetarian and vegan café one of these days. They don’t know exactly when. “I really am life,” she said. And she is free to do so.