Eleanor Beardsley

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in June 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture, and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.

Beardsley has been an active part of NPR's coverage of the two waves of terrorist attacks in Paris and in Brussels. She has also followed the migrant crisis, traveling to meet and report on arriving refugees in Hungary, Austria, Germany, Sweden, and France. She has also travelled to Ukraine, including the flashpoint eastern city of Donetsk, to report on the war there, and to Athens, to follow the Greek debt crisis.

In 2011 Beardsley covered the first Arab Spring revolution in Tunisia, where she witnessed the overthrow of the autocratic President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Since then she has returned to the North African country many times to follow its progress on the road to democracy.

In France, Beardsley covered both 2007 and 2012 French presidential elections. She also reported on the riots in French suburbs in 2005 and the massive student demonstrations in 2006. Beardsley has followed the Tour de France cycling race and been back to her old stomping ground — Kosovo — to report for NPR on three separate occasions.

Prior to moving to Paris, Beardsley worked for three years with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo. She also worked as a television producer for French broadcaster TF1 in Washington, DC and as a staff assistant to Senator Strom Thurmond.

Reporting from France for Beardsley is the fulfillment of a lifelong passion for the French language and culture. At the age of 10 she began learning French by reading the Asterix The Gaul comic book series with her father.

While she came to the field of radio journalism relatively late in her career, Beardsley says her varied background, studies, and travels prepared her for the job as well as any journalism school. "I love reporting on the French because there are so many stereotypes about them that exist in America," she says. "Sometimes it's fun to dispel the false notions and show a different side of the Gallic character. And sometimes the old stereotypes do hold up. But whether Americans love or hate France and the French, they're always interested!"

A native of South Carolina, Beardsley has a Bachelor of Arts in European history and French from Furman University in Greenville, S.C., and a master's degree in International Business from the University of South Carolina.

Beardsley is interested in politics, travel, and observing foreign cultures. Her favorite cities are Paris and Istanbul.

This week, the lights go down on another packed house at the Theatre du Chatelet, the gilded19th century theater in Paris whose name has become synonymous with grand American musical productions. The latest hit is Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate, which ends a sold-out 10-day run this Friday.

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Didi points to where he was standing when the terrorists arrived the night of Nov. 13, when he was on duty as a security guard outside the Bataclan concert hall. The gunmen massacred 90 people that night, in a killing spree that lasted nearly two hours. They were "shooting when they arrived," Didi says.

"There was nothing you could do," he says. "I told myself, I've got to quickly get as many people out of there as possible because these terrorists have come to kill as many people as they can."

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Emad, a Damascus native, says he is starting to feel at home in the northwestern Dutch city of Haarlem. The 25-year-old comes on foot to meet me at the city's train station, where I traveled from Paris to meet him in November.

"It's fascinating, it reminds me a lot of Damascus," he says. "Because it has the old city, then it goes modern and it goes to old buildings [again]. So it gives me a warm feeling to be here."

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One year ago, gunmen stormed the Paris offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and began a three-day killing spree that would claim 17 lives. Ten months later, in November, armed Islamist radicals struck the city again, killing scores at cafes and a concert hall.

In 2015, we saw the most deadly attacks on French soil since World War II. President Francois Hollande says France is at war. His country, which has long stood for individual freedom, is trying to balance that freedom with the need for security.

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