British national Henry Wickens, pictured, founded the Uergelfrënn Waldbëlleg to give organ concerts
Photo: Matic Zorman
When Henry Wickens and his family moved to Luxembourg from Strasbourg in August 1990, they settled on Waldbillig, in the Petite Suisse, as a place to live.
“It seemed vastly eccentric to my colleagues to live this far out of town,” says Henry. But they have not regretted it one bit and were soon involved in local life.
Henry and wife Jane had joined a choir everywhere they had lived previously. Neighbours soon told the couple about the Waldbillig gesangveräin. “We were immediately plunged into Luxembourg veräinsliewen [association life], which was great.” Henry was eventually asked to be the choir’s conductor.
The couple’s three sons, who all now have Luxembourg nationality, also attended local primary school. “That is another excellent way of making friends locally.” And as a member of the local band, Henry was later asked to take over running its junior section, which he did while his children were of the right age.
Perhaps most impressively, Henry was instrumental in setting up the Uergelfrënn Waldbëlleg in 1996. After some initial difficulties, the association was revived in 2012. “We got a church-going mayor who was prepared to support us,” he explains. The church was renovated, and the organ was inaugurated in 2016. But being involved locally doesn’t mean Henry is detached from the expat community. He sings in the Anglican church choir and has also performed with Pirate Productions.
A translator by profession--he is now retired from the European Parliament--in 1999 Henry had the idea of translating “Winnie the Pooh” into Luxembourgish. Gollo Steffen of Op der Lay agreed to publish the book, and there followed translations of “The House at Pooh Corner”, “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Hobbit”.
“Luxembourgers have been very welcoming,” he says. “It’s easier to belong to a community as a foreigner who joins local associations, than as a Luxembourger who doesn’t.”