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:

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 :)

Comments: 520 • Responses: 31  • Date: 

ozarkadventurer537 karma

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

bonjourmr467 karma

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

rohangreen448 karma

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

bonjourmr1058 karma

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.

bonjourmr147 karma

Moon landing, the war, modern science etc.

pvpplease397 karma

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

bonjourmr326 karma

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!

Jaelanne380 karma

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?

bonjourmr737 karma

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.

bonjourmr81 karma

Additional video:

EwItsForgotten260 karma

Any cooking tips you with more people knew?

bonjourmr427 karma


an-escaped-duck236 karma

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

bonjourmr603 karma

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

Phonophobia179 karma

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

bonjourmr375 karma

You don’t fight enough!

eusoulegal6127 karma

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?

bonjourmr210 karma

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.

BrandlessPain127 karma

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

bonjourmr165 karma

spider_8498 karma

How's the French food in Wollongong?

bonjourmr205 karma

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

eusoulegal690 karma

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.

bonjourmr227 karma

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.

sterexx43 karma

Wait, who took off their uniforms? Germans?

bonjourmr77 karma

Correct, they had civilian outfits at the ready

bonjourmr70 karma

More on this.

Young men were scared to go to war. Everyone knew many who were killed.

Phrossack81 karma

Do you speak any Breton?

bonjourmr147 karma

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

GodKingMussolini70 karma


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

Like what was your day to day.

bonjourmr99 karma

Fear but normality.

Long, in-depth reply:

BloodKingX50 karma

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?

bonjourmr43 karma

German soldiers and local girls sometimes got together, with repercussions

bemuzed147 karma

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

bonjourmr46 karma

Well, we didn’t at first!

jimit9736 karma

what was your first job and at what age?

bonjourmr119 karma

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!

catmom8151935 karma

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

bonjourmr40 karma

Yea very much so! Saint-Hernin, Finistere

eveningsand26 karma

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!

bonjourmr27 karma

ID9ITAL22 karma

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?

bonjourmr26 karma

10 euro cruise liner buffered by the Australian Government

GarySteinfeld18 karma

She hasn't dropped off the perch has she?

bonjourmr38 karma

Mate lol. Thankfully not.

Zauberer-IMDB17 karma

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

bonjourmr41 karma

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

imnino1216 karma

What did you have to do to survive?

bonjourmr18 karma

Have faith!

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

siperjff11 karma

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.

bonjourmr14 karma

Lot’s and lot’s of pride

CaptionClosed5 karma

What is a Memere?

bonjourmr18 karma

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.

Luhzly30 karma

It's a real word. In France, you can call your grandparents mémère and pépère or mamie and papy, those are the most common choices.

bonjourmr9 karma

Oh cool, good to know 😂