Meet Manou: my ‘grand-mère Française and rescuer of the persecuted

Can you imagine living through WWII, the moon landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the COVID-19 pandemic? What about meeting someone who also hid and fed Jews as well as other refugees during the Nazi Occupation of France?

I’d like to introduce you to Marie-Angele Fabry, affectionally known as ‘Manou’ who is someone close to my heart, she embodies joie de vivre and has a cheeky sense of humour. Manou turns 102 years old this Remembrance Day. She grew up in Agen and studied law.

As was common at the time, she ceased her studies on marrying and moved to Paris. Her husband owned a bookshop and publishing house, L’école des Loisirs. They had a happy marriage with 5 children, now aged between 65 to 75 years old.

Meet Manou: my 'grand-mère Française and rescuer of the persecuted

Having one of the rare houses in Paris surrounded by fields when it was bought, all neighbouring houses are now tall apartment buildings. A talented artist, Manou taught in her conservatory. Her daughter, Françoise inherited her gift; their paintings decorating the house.

Manou is a strong, independent woman. However, I once stumbled upon a book, ‘La Femme du Foyer'(housewife). I flipped through the yellowed pages in utter horror of this guide to being the perfect housewife, the standard of her generation.

Selfless acts during WWII

Manou’s selfless acts during WWII came up at dinner. I asked whether she feared the Nazis. She shrugged, “anybody would have done it”. Sadly, this is not true. Manou risked being sent to a concentration camp or worse… death. I found out no one seemed to know of her actions. I wanted to interview her about this last month, but there have been some more age-related changes since I saw her just before her 100th birthday.

I had the privilege of meeting Holocaust survivors early in my career as a hospital social worker. It was their choice to share their stories with me, which is humbling considering that historians must search for survivors. It is especially meaningful after visiting Auschwitz this June and thinking of Manou having saved so many from ending up in such a terrible place.

I would like Manou to be considered a ‘Righteous Among the Nations‘, an idea derived from volunteering at the Melbourne Holocaust Museum. However, there are likely no living survivor testimonies and nomination needs to be made by a Jewish individual.

I know she is very modest so might refuse the honour. Even bringing flowers (pink of course) on visits, she acts as though I have done something unimaginably kind. Although she has poor eyesight and hearing, there are amusing moments when she says what she thinks she heard. Usually, with no link whatsoever to what has been said… a big cheeky ‘Manou smile’ emerges as she sees me suppressing a giggle.

Staying in touch & treasuring visits

I cannot write letters from Australia. I called once but I was almost yelling down the phone: “Is it you Françoise?” “No, it’s Libby” “Oh, Lucette!” “No, Libby,” “Christine!” I had to wait to return to Paris to see her.

Being an avid chocoholic, it is found in every nook and cranny of her home.

  • For Christmas, I introduced Manou to Tim Tams and
  • I bought a giant chocolate Scrabble board with pieces for her birthday. Thursday afternoons mean scrabble parties for Manou. She introduced me to new French words.

- Manou unwrapping the chocolate Scrabble gift -

My memories of Manou’s kindness

  • Once, I was afraid Manou would burn down the house making the caramel for her crème caramel, especially due to poor eyesight. But voilà, she taught me her own recipe.
  • When I broke my wrist, she cared for me. Following her sudden craving for ice cream, we tried to open a container, me with one working hand and Manou lacking physical strength. It started a serious affair, as ice cream always implies, concluding in fits of laughter at the ridiculousness of the situation.
  • During the “Great Strike of December 2019,” Manou prepared warm foot baths for my swollen feet.

My most recent visit

Seeing Manou a few weeks ago with some changes that would be expected of someone her age, I was taken aback by the lightning speed with which she corrected me when I accidentally stated her age as 102 instead of 101: “Bah, non! Quelques mois restent encore!”.

She also insisted on taking selfies! Imagine my surprise that someone born in 1921 knew what a selfie was.

What is Manou’s secret to a long life?


  • Focusing on the positive even in difficult times,
  • hobbies, and Scrabble parties!
  • She keeps socially engaged with friends and
  • I am sure that still climbing three of her four-storey house’s staircases has helped!
  • But mostly small pleasures and being happy.

It was emotional leaving.

I know that I am truly lucky to have met someone like Manou. And from her, I have learned so much about life.

Do you know anyone who lived through WWII or the Holocaust? Do you have any stories to share in the comments below?

Your subscription to the (free or paid) ‘le Bulletin’ will be gratefully received, and will help me continue to build ‘le Bulletin’ - the weekly newsletter of Magazine to be even more rich.
Merci Mille Fois

About the Contributor

Libby Crozier

As a young child, I fell in love with 'The Phantom of the Opera' & visited the Palais Garnier. Later whilst walking the cobble-stoned streets of Montmartre, I decided to move there and fell in love for the first time in Paris, not only with France. You can follow me: my blog & IG @vieadventureuse

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