recaps of the top 'ask me anything' interviews from reddit and more...
Bonjour, I am a 100-yr old WW2-surviving Bretagne expat living in Australia

My Memere, Philomene, has just turned 100! Born on the November 5th, 1919, on a farm in Brittany, France, she migrated to Wollongong, Australia with her husband Pierre (my Pepere, now deceased) after World War 2 when Europe declined into depression.

She is currently the oldest living French expat in Australia according to the French consulate!

Memere and Pepere both lived through Nazi-occupied Bretagne and have always told lot's of really interesting stories about the time & area plus moving to Australia without knowing a word of English.

My Pepere was a member of the Free French under Charles de Gaulle and was a plane technician during the war (one of his missions across the English Channel was in a book that I’ll dig up the name of soon).

Proof via Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/mjrowles/status/1192973841980485632

UPDATE: we’re filming some responses, as you can understand this is more of a conversation so please bare with us 👍🏻

UPDATE 2: I have a lot of footage, we’re trying to reply as quick as possible. Thanks so much to everyone who has asked so far. I’ll come and visit Memere again tomorrow and get some more answers, so keep them coming :)

UPDATE 3: I promise i’ll get around to answering some of the new questions with Memere over the next few days, bare with us :)


29
questions
10,469
score
November 9th 2019
interview date
Jaelanne

Did you ever suspect, or hear suspicions, that Hitler was systematically slaughtering Jews before the gas chambers became common knowledge after the labour camps were liberated...and what have you the suspicion?


bonjourmr

Yes we knew, the prisoner of war camps were big, two of my brothers were sent there before they came home and word got around.

There were Jewish families who hid on our farms, my sister even hosted a family in their barn and they survived thankfully.

eusoulegal6

Can u please explain how did an occupied city worked for it's locals? Did the commerce still work normally? Did police and other emergency services stop working? Were people afraid?


bonjourmr

There was a lot of fear. Germany took most of the northern countries in a week and France very quickly too. In saying that, life was mostly normal aside from a few very sad events that affected my town (mentioned in another video) and the odd soldier coming to get food from my family. We just survived, obeyed and got on with life.

eusoulegal6

Despite from the ideology, do u think there was an objetive difference between Nazi and Allies soldiers? Specially in terms of how do they act towards civilians.


bonjourmr

Not really, the German soldiers varied just as the Allied soldiers would have but were generally nice. They were all young men. A lot of the Allied nations, France especially, did not have an army of proper soldiers, whereas Germany did. When they occupied Brittany, some even boarded with French people.

When D-Day happened, they all took off their uniforms to blend in for safety but also because it was finally over.

rohangreen

What are some of the most amazing thing she has seen in her life?


bonjourmr

The moon landing! Planes also, nothing has changed the world more than planes. It took us 5 weeks on a big boat to come to Australia, then all of a sudden we could go on holidays every year.

jimit97

what was your first job and at what age?


bonjourmr

In Australia, teaching at a high school! I did cleaning for a few weeks when I first arrived to cover for my cousin who went home. I loved every minute of my teaching years, ‘62-85! I taught French mainly and a bit of Italian. My friend, who recently passed at 101, used to teach me some Italian and vice versa!

pvpplease

Does your Memere consider Mont-Saint-Michel to be in Brittany or Normandy?


bonjourmr

Well, it’s between the two. It’s a very special place but also a very dangerous place in years gone because of the tide and waves!

ozarkadventurer

Is there a simple way you can express how you have seen the world change in your lifetime?


bonjourmr

This one was a hard one, I’m uploading a few video answers to other questions which might paint a picture! Sorry!

an-escaped-duck

What advice would you offer a young person who will soon be going out into the world?


bonjourmr

Say sorry when you’re wrong, fight for when you’re right

https://youtu.be/v5X_NwsmtV4

BloodKingX

My Great Grandfather was a WWII vet, and he died when I was young, so I never got to ask him the things I wanted to.

So, I must ask first and foremost, as a survivor, was there a German soldier you thought could’ve been a comrade, even a dear friend under different circumstances?


BrandlessPain

If you could, which advice would you give ur 20 year old self?


spider_84

How's the French food in Wollongong?


bonjourmr

Not great! I don’t think I’ve had a proper French meal at a restaurant since I’ve come to Australia.

GodKingMussolini

Hi,

If I may what was it like living through Nazi occupied Europe,

Like what was your day to day.


bonjourmr

Fear but normality.

Long, in-depth reply: https://youtu.be/PdWIJZK8qWQ

Phonophobia

In your opinion, what do we (Millennials) take for granted the most?


bonjourmr

You don’t fight enough!

https://youtu.be/mcfcQBi48GY

ID9ITAL

Hi would love to hear of your experiences. What was the process you went through to immigrate from France to Australia? Was there a lot of bureaucracy? Did your husband have a job offer set up before arrival?


bonjourmr

10 euro cruise liner buffered by the Australian Government

https://youtu.be/Sgnhbsk2aYg

Phrossack

Do you speak any Breton?


bonjourmr

It’s funny because I could not even speak French until school, but sadly now I do not. Pepere spoke all his life!

Zauberer-IMDB

Did she grow up speaking French or Breton? What part was she from?


bonjourmr

Breton! I could not speak French until I went to school. It was hard to talk to Parisians when we went to sell produce or animals in the capital later on also. Saint-Hernin, Finistere if you know that area

bemuzed1

What made you and your husband choose to move to Australia?


bonjourmr

Well, we didn’t at first!

https://youtu.be/bDN94tsuOL4

catmom81519

Do you miss your hometown? What do you miss the most?


bonjourmr

Yea very much so! Saint-Hernin, Finistere

https://youtu.be/jYlmzRheFto

EwItsForgotten

Any cooking tips you with more people knew?


bonjourmr

Butter!

imnino12

What did you have to do to survive?


bonjourmr

Have faith!

https://youtu.be/dZPFWv73kys

Grandson: sorry, I think you meant during WW2 but her answer was more regarding post-immigration to Australia, other videos will cover WW2

eveningsand

When you moved to Australia, what was the general sentiment towards the French post-WWII? How were you and your husband received by the community?

Thanks for sharing your experiences!


siperjff

Bonjour! Je connais quelques Bretons et leur fierté pour la Bretagne est toujours surprenante à mes yeux! Partagez-vous encore cette passion pour ce drapeau noir et blanc?

I figured a french text would be easier to understand as you are from Britanny. Pardon me if my french has some uncaught mistakes.


bonjourmr

Lot’s and lot’s of pride

https://youtu.be/tWNfSfRgBkg

-Teapot

Why Australia?

Has she returned to France often? Did/does she feel like a stranger when she visits her country?

My pépère was also in the Resistance in Normandy. After the war, he was a diver and disarmed submarine mines.

I never heard anyone else use pépère/mémère before. Really cool.

My opa (other grandpa) was in the German army, spent some time in French prisoner of war camps after the war, loved the French culture, wanted to stay so he proved himself until he was allowed to reside in France. He and my oma didn’t go back to Germany for many decades (until the wall came down I believe).

I am myself an expat in the US. I have been here for more than 10 years about a 1/3 of my life so my questions are related to my own experience and the experience of my grandparents.

Funny how life works out sometimes.

Bonjour de Californie!

Edit: concentration -> prisoner of war


bonjourmr

We didn’t! We were meant to go to Canada but they closed immigration. My husbands family made it to Canada just before us.

CaptionClosed

What is a Memere?


bonjourmr

Grandson here: we’re not actually sure it’s a real thing, it sort of translates to Mum Mum, but there was someone else here who uses the same words so maybe it is more common than we thought! It’s just something we grew up calling them, i’ll ask Mum and Dad to find out more.

Tinia_and_Nethuns

As a Breton, did you feel like you faced discrimination because of your heritage, either before or during the war?


bonjourmr

Yes. Like here a bit when we arrived here [in Australia], tall poppies look after themselves you know. This has changed a lot from what I see in the news. I recall Pepere writing a letter to the president when he was alive [Chirac] complaining about the similarities and he called him to discuss it!

GarySteinfeld

She hasn't dropped off the perch has she?


bonjourmr

Mate lol. Thankfully not.

knightryder_

Do you see any Change in pre war and post war era? What're the good and bad changes?


bonjourmr

War can grow economies unfortunately but cities were in ruin. Generally, sentiment between races and nations did not grow more positively overnight at all, but France became a lot more multicultural (potentially due to other wars like the Algerian war).

https://youtu.be/cxjxl4pKSO8

nevird

Where are you from in Brittany? Thanks !


bonjourmr

Saint-Hernin, Finistere, Quimper, Brittany

Pepere is from Carhaix-plouger

CaravelClerihew

Do you get a picture of the queen?


bonjourmr

No but the French government have sent me a beautiful bust of Marianne the symbol of revolution...liberty!

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bonjourmr