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Keeping Track


Mena was born Yvonne Le Guillou on 26-April-1922.

She was one of the hardest of the nine women for me to find, but what I learned about her I really love. I can imagine being her friend.

She was a working-class girl from Paris, but her family came from Brittany, where she would return often to visit her grandmother and the sea.

She loved to be in love; she was a flirt. Maybe in her day, they would call her a lose girl, but I love lose girls living passionately.

She said she joined the resistance for the love of a boy. The boy was Jan Van Brakel and while they were in the resistance, they were living together in the house of the Dutch artist Mena Loopuyt. There on the walls she saw the artist's paintings and took Mena's name as her nom de guerre. I imagine her wanting to be an artist. I imagine her enthralled in the romance of it all until she and Jan were arrested by the Gestapo and deported. She later admitted that she had no idea what she was getting into. Jan would die in the camps.

Things I love about Mena: After the war, Mena made a quilt for her daughter Edith from the coat she wore during those cold winters in the Nazi camp and during her escape. She and Edith would go to the cafe at Galerie Lafayette for tea and speak with fake British accents and pretend to be English. Mena and Edith were very close, she told her daughter everything, but did not speak about the war with anyone else. Her grandson Guillaume, who spoke with me, inherited Mene's stories from his mother, Edith, he said, with an almost sacred transmission.

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