After the war. One woman’s story. The raw, beautiful, real Paris.

After the war. One woman’s story. The raw, beautiful, real Paris.

Post war Paris - a place of contradictions. Harsh and difficult, whilst warm and loving.

Loulabelle's FrancoFiles episode 61

Guest: Lise Buisson Primaud

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We often think of Paris as the beautiful tourist Mecca flooded with cutesie photo ops of flowers, promenades, cafes and gorgeous doors. But under all of that beauty is a rawness. A wonderful strength and determination to survive. I chatted to ex-Parisian Lise Buisson Primaud whose family struggled through the war in ways most of us can’t or don’t want to imagine, but the after effects of the war lasted more than a generation. Hearing Lise talk about HER Paris really highlighted that for me. I’m so grateful to those courageous Parisians who didn’t give up. They’re one of the reasons why we still have the Paris we all adore today.

Talking to Lise about her early story in post war Paris, she never felt like she was hard-done by, even though they were so very poor and missed out on much. I wonder if that was because they knew of how much devastation her parents had to live through, so the tough times she and her siblings experienced didn’t seem so dreadful in comparison. Lise grew up surrounded by the old buildings with the aftermath of bombing quite clear on the streets. One of five children, she lost her mother at age 15 and then brought up her siblings.  They lived in Montparnasse in the 14th arrondissement which is now very respectable but was very poor back then. Orphans and beggars were commonplace. Whilst times were tough, she and her siblings never complained or wished for a different life. They had each other.

We find it hard to imagine this reality they all lived and whilst Lise says we shouldn’t dwell on the difficult times, (one of the strategies she employs assisting her to be such an amazing survivor I think) it is important to remember so it won’t be repeated.

In the 1960s in Paris Lise was living in a one-roomed flat with her husband and new born son, whose health was so badly affected by the living conditions that medical advice had suggested she would lose her son if they didn’t move. So they eventually moved to Australia.

Lise, her husband and her children would visit and go back to France often staying with family and getting to know their relatives. In 1981 her little family went and stayed in France for a full year living in the village of Versailles.

Paris has changed much over the years. Since the war prosperity and gentrification of various areas has seen some neighbourhoods improve immensely.

Lise now lives permanently in Australia and after a career as a school teacher and principal, she teaches French a few days a week in South East Melbourne. To explore the options for Lise’s classes follow the link to the Belvedere community centre


Jacques Brel – Les Vieux

I love a singer who is also a poet, probably because I love story telling. I particularly loved hearing Lise’s story in this episode and her explanation of Jacques Brel specifically in this song.


Les rillettes

Rillettes are made with a preservation method similar to confit where meat is seasoned then slow cooked submerged in fat and cooked at an extremely slow rate for several hours (4 to 10 hours). Rillettes are most commonly made with pork, but also made with other meats such as goose, duck, chicken, game birds or rabbit.

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