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Francoise R.

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
in 1940
Interview number:


Dr Rosalyn Livshin

Date of Interview:

Interview Summary:

Francoise R was born in Brussels in 1939 to an English mother and an Austrian father. Her mother, who was from Birmingham, had come to work in Brussels as a librarian and had met and married and settled there. Her father moved from Austria to Holland and then to Belgium and worked for printing companies. Her father joined the Belgium Air Force as a pilot. He was twice captured and escaped. He escaped to England and joined the RAF. His mother survived the war in Belgium. On the German invasion of Belgium, Francoise's mother took the baby and tramped the roads going from port to port looking for a ship. They lived rough. She caught a boat and arrived in the UK where she went to her family in Birmingham. 

Francoise's brother was born in 1944. When her father came out of the RAF they went to live in Croydon in c1946 where she attended Crowham Hurst Private Girls School. Her parents divorced. Francoise had a liberal Jewish upbringing, although her mother came from a more orthodox family. Her brother became an architect and Francoise trained as a teacher, although she would have preferred to focus on athletics or drama. 


Full Interview


My mother… realised that the Germans were approaching and people were being rounded up and sent off. There was only one chance and that was to leave Brussels. I was a small baby, so she picked me up …and she set off on foot to try to get …to England. She walked for 6 weeks along the road, carrying a baby. Very, very brave and managed by walking from port to port to get on, I am told, what was the last boat that got back to England without being bombed or stopped. She was made a big fuss of and there were articles in the paper about this brave young woman who had managed to save her baby and get back to Britain.

…the importance of everyone- Learning to accept and value other human beings for their qualities. One mustn’t look at colour, one mustn’t look at religion and one mustn’t look at the differences between people. One must think of them all as human beings and we do have something in common with all of them.

It must have been very hard because she had no food. I don’t think she had much money & no food & no place to hide so apparently sometimes we slept in ditches or hid in ditches, sometimes under or behind hedges. We slept sometimes in shops if somebody would give us a space under a counter or something. Apparently I was put to sleep in drawers in boxes. Apparently I was a very nice baby & smiled a lot so when she went & begged, which was what she had to do for food & shelter, they saw a smiley baby & agreed luckily. She said in the account that I was very, very frightened & that she used to put her hands over my eyes & over my ears, so that I was less aware of the bombing, which probably explains why I cannot go to a film with war in. I cannot read any books about war. I cannot have anything to do with anything about war because I am still obviously traumatised by it.

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