A barefoot countess. So we were able to qualify Albina du Boisrouvray. Daughter of a French aristocrat, first cousin of Prince Rainier III. of Monaco, granddaughter of the Bolivian tin king Simon Patiño, after the accidental death of her only son François-Xavier Bagnoud at the Paris-Dakar, she decided to sell three quarters of her assets in favor of the FXB Foundation, which she had set up. She was therefore fully committed to humanitarian work. Through its actions carried out for more than thirty years, it has thus contributed to improving the lives of 18 million people! A look back at an inspiring and exemplary life.
PARIS GAME. Was it difficult to reflect on your past?
Albina du Boisrouvray. Some phases were more attempts at writing than others… I had to write three different books to be able to tell what corresponds to my life since my son’s disappearance. I felt it necessary to narrate my life as a mother with him to come to his accident and see how I left him while continuing his rescue and reminiscing about my childhood.
PARIS GAME. What does the title of your book imply?
AWAY A friend told me about a sentence Hannah Arendt had written during the war. She commemorates the refugees and “their glowing courage to face life”. It was perfect! This obviously covers the fact that I was able to recover after being crushed by the disappearance of François. He also showed immense courage: taking risks, saving people, that was his fixation. The women of FXB Villages have also shown extraordinary courage, working hard to achieve the economic independence they have been offered.
PARIS GAME. You start your book by saying that you are multiracial…
AWAY Yes, the result of a sum of contradictions and antagonisms! I am attending from two hemispheres, two social classes, two different and contrasting ethnic groups. I am one of my father’s oppressors and one of my mother’s oppressed. This gave me a natural solidarity with minorities and the discriminated against. Genes are important! I’ve always been very militant and wanted to fix the world.
PARIS GAME. We are struck by the lack of affection you felt as a child. How do you explain your mother fiber?
AWAY Despite the opulence and luxury, my childhood was not extraordinary. On the emotional side, it was the pack ice! I had to rely on my own strength very quickly. This allowed me to build myself up as I saw fit and later to understand neglected children. I developed a very strong maternal instinct with my son, a way to fix something that had gone wrong in my own life. It was about making sure he never felt unwanted.
PARIS GAME. You describe yourself as an onion that you have peeled. What did you want to express?
AWAY When you remove the skins from an onion, a small pit appears at the end. It was me, that little core! I found myself in a family environment in which I didn’t get stuck at all. I was surrounded by heaps of shells that fate had given me: I gradually got rid of them.
PARIS GAME. And Switzerland?
AWAY I discovered Valais by accident, got married there and gave birth to my son. I settled into what seemed like terroir to me, a normal family with no hate or litigation. My grandfather never mentioned the extremely humble background he came from. My sense of dysfunction comes from this source. I quickly understood our real story. Curious, I traveled very early to meet my period.
PARIS GAME. Onward to Paris?
AWAY Yes! My obsession was to be economically independent. I wanted to be the subject of my existence. So I was a journalist and then a film producer where I had a great career! My son remained my priority.
PARIS GAME. What did you learn from it?
AWAY First the courage to go on living without him. In moments of despair, I think of him and tell myself that I cannot let myself go: François would be ashamed of me, I can hear it from here! He also taught me responsibility. I gave birth to a rescue pilot. As a mother, I had to be up to it.
PARIS GAME. How did you find the courage to recover from his death?
AWAY Shortly after his death I told my friend Bernard Kouchner that unfortunately I would now be available to go with him. Since I’m very politicized and militant, I’ve always wanted to do this. We had all been disappointed after May 1968. Doctors Without Borders, of which he was the origin, seemed to me at the time the best way to put politics into action. In 1987 he suggested that I accompany him to Lebanon, it broke my paralysis and put my foot in the stirrup to return to work.
PARIS GAME. Why mention Margaret Thatcher?
AWAY His daughter was my friend and had told her that I felt responsible for not being able to tell my son that he too had to be careful to protect himself. Margaret decided to speak to me, especially since her son was also lost at a Paris-Dakar and François-Xavier was among those who had been looking for him. Prime Minister like she was, she spent an afternoon trying to absolve me of my guilt.
PARIS GAME. Why did you choose the cause of the AIDS orphans in your first actions?
AWAY When I set up the foundation, I fed it with the inheritance that came to me after my father’s death in 1980. I had kept her for François-Xavier and thought only of being her steward. From the moment my son was gone, it was clear that I would use this legacy both for my activism and for continuing the rescue. This reason seemed obvious to me at the time. After that there were many more.
PARIS GAME. What are you most proud of today?
AWAY I’m very proud of my son, of the person he was, of the choices he made, of the courage he showed. I’m also very pleased with the FXB Villages: it was a major transgression that turned into an iconoclastic development solution when everyone was hesitant, it had to be done!
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