These are the stories of three of our members who were still active in the IWCR in 2011.
Doris and Pooh have been friends and neighbours for over 30 years and members of IWCR for at least 16 years. Both Doris and Pooh belonged to the Hiking Group. Doris remembers one of her first hikes was along the Brague river when someone fell in and Pooh remembers walking along the coastal path at St Tropez.
Pooh’s name is really Dora-Elena and it was her husband who originally called her Pooh, after Winnie the Pooh, a much loved book given to her by her mother. Pooh was born in Switzerland and met her husband, also Swiss, whilst staying with a family to improve her French. They married two years later and with her husband, a lecturer in geography, first lived in Algeria for ten years, then in France, Senegal, Morocco, Switzerland, Ireland, Malaysia and Zaire. At that time their house in France was for holidays, but after Pooh’s husband died she decided to stay in France.
Pooh has four children and seven grandchildren. Pooh now enjoys the friendliness and companionship of the Patchwork Group and although she has missed a few months because of her health, she is looking forward to joining them again.
Doris, who is English, met her French husband in London. He had escaped from occupied France and was working with General de Gaulle as one of his aides. Doris remembers how they very nearly did not meet. She arrived with her sister at a dance only to find she did not have enough money. A kind girl at the entrance gave her the missing sixpence.
After Doris was married, she also travelled the world with her husband who became a diplomat at the end of the war. They lived in Argentina, Venezuela, Italy, Denmark, Spain, Holland and Turkey. Doris remembers going shopping for a gigot in Turkey, having to use sign language and going, ‘Baa, baa’.
Doris has three children, twelve grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Doris loved her days out with the Hiking Group. Unfortunately she has had to stop, but the group invites her to special picnics and enjoys her acrobatic performances, in particular doing the ‘splits’.
Brita started her international career very early. Her grandparents were Russian fugitives from the tsar living in Romania and her mother had married a Dutch engineer building the first Romanian oil refinery. They moved to Holland when Brita was twenty and she in turn married a Dutch engineer. In 1952 his work took him to Columbia where they both lived for the next thirty-five years before moving to the South of France on his retirement.
When they arrived in Columbia the country was in the chaos at the end of a twenty year long civil war and Bogota was full of migrating people. It soon became clear to Brita and other ladies that they could give help – to the homeless children in particular. Mainly boys, the children lived in the streets; some of these were orphans, some had single parents and some had become separated from their families who were unable to look after them. Starting with a garage, the ladies then obtained a ruined house, and then more accommodation to shelter small groups of boys, and later also girls. Brita and her group got the children settled and educated, and trained them for a profession. In 2011 the community work is still going on, mainly in the slums, and Brita hears from her ‘children’ from time to time.
Brita is an active member of the Bridge Group. She has lost her husband, but her son and two grandchildren live in Paris. Apart from Dutch, Brita speaks French, English, Spanish, Romanian and German.
All these exceptional ladies know what it is like to be lonely and not to know anyone. They all affirm that the IWCR offers such warmth and friendship that you need never feel lonely.
All three are now 95. Pooh and Doris are still living in their own homes thanks to their families. They are still firm friends and live not far from each other, a friendship lasting more than 30 years. Pooh enjoys her visits to the Patchwork Group very much. She is no longer able to work on projects but enjoys the company and is interested in everyone’s work, offering good advice from her years of sewing experience. Doris is still the agile happy person she has always been. Her dream is to walk with a hiking group and to be able to do the ‘splits’ again. She loves having a cup of tea with friends and chats away happily. Two very remarkable ladies.
Brita is very happy and settled now in Paris, near her son and family, and says she ought to have made the move ten years ago!
International Women’s Club of the Riviera