A tribute to Claudie Fayein, French doctor in Pre-revolution YemenDaughters visit mother’s beloved country [Archives:2004/780/Last Page]

October 11 2004

By Shaker al-Molsi
Yemen Times Staff

Writing “Une Fransaise Medicin Au Yemen” (I was a Physician in Yemen), Claudie Fayein (1912-2002), was concerned with reflecting a true picture of the reality of Yemen. She was honest in conveying the details of the Yemenis' hard life and abject misery. She might have not anticipated a revolution at that time nor expected that two of her offspring would be together visiting Yemen on the occasion of Sana'a, the 2004 Arab Cultural Capital, receiving honors on her behalf.
Lucie Foubert, and Elise Spivac, the two daughters of French doctor Claudie Fayein, have taken part in some of the activities of the celebrated city. The Yemen Times met them to enquire about their thoughts and feelings regarding their mother, and Yemen.
When their mother left for Yemen in the 50s of the last century, Lucie was five, and Elise was eight. They were looked after by their father and aunt.
“Our mother left us because she was sure we were surrounded by loving people. During her life, she liked to give more to those who had less,” they said.
“She was rather a strong woman. When she was determined to do something, she would do it. She organized everything and then set off. She was also courageous, for it was she who rescued her husband in World War II. Yet, she was a shy woman.”
They do not conceal their pride of their mother. “We are proud of her. She has taught us to respect every culture, to respect differences deeply. This is something important,” mentioned Lucie.
Elise added: “We were too little to know about the conditions in Yemen until she wrote her book. We realized how life in Yemen was by reading and looking at the pictures of books. I have still in my mind the pictures she put in her book. It is well written, very simple and very heartfelt. It contains short stories about children and women and those who die due to lack of medicine. There is a story about a little girl who could not read. She was upset and thought she was stupid.”
The two women continued, “My mother loved Yemen. She was a socialist and was very happy when she heard about the revolution in Yemen.”
It is not the first time they have visited Yemen. Lucie was here twice, in 1971 and 1983, accompanying her mother. Elise visited Yemen once in 1976. They visited different places including Sana'a, Sa'adah, Hodeidah, Taiz, and Aden.
Mrs Fayein came here twenty six times. In the first time, she stayed one and a half-years, and the second time two years, and later made frequent trips. Her last visit was in 1993 in the accompaniment of former French President Fransoa Mitterand.
“She had not only love but also a big passion for Yemen,” the daughters added.

Cluadie remembered by Yemen:
“We are very pleased to see Sana'a celebrated this year. It is beautiful and always getting better. This is nice.”
The two women have inherited a love for Yemen from their mother. They hope to come again and again, but are only obliged to leave due to liablities in France.
“I would like to visit all places of this country, but I must be in Paris by Monday,” said Lucie.
“Being here invited by the Ministry of Culture, we are very happy and surprised to see that the memory of our mother is so present here. We went to Manakha and locals were looking at us, saying Claudie. We were very astonished. Besides, meeting the acquaintances of our mother, we realize why my mother loved Yemen and dedicated part of her life and energy to Yemen. Yemen indeed deserves it.”
Both of them have witnessed the development and the change in the conditions of the country. For them, it is so obvious.
Lucie gave an example to illustrate that: “I saw a man whom my mother knew in the past. He once complained to her that his three sons had died due to lack of medicine and care. Now this man has in the town a hospital, medicine and doctors. All to cure people.”
In closing, Elise said: “It is amusing to find that this small country, which was once closed, opened for us a window to the world, and gave us the opportunity to be really cosmopolitan. Our mother gave us the wish and the need for helping people. She gave us the ideal to be generous and helpful to others.”

The book the testimony:
The book of Claudie Fyein appeared in 1955 in the collection “Sciences and Voyages.” It contains anecdotes and follows the itinerary of the doctor: her travel from Aden to Taiz then to Sana'a, her visit to Dhamar and her air trip to Mareb. The reader of the book feels like the recipient of a friendly correspondence, and senses the heat, sincerity, sensitivity, accuracy and originality of the matter.
Mrs. Fyein described the majesty of nature, and the hospitality of the people. Her description was minute but smooth, simple but literary. The work reveals the personality of the authoress as a real human being, someone with an amazing ability to feel for others, and the tenderness to share their suffering.
She presents a pitiful view of a hospital in Taiz, where locals are dying of tufous. There is no medicine, and the place is unfit to hospitalize them.
“Low rooms without windows. There are lots of patients most of whom were at the verge of death..”
the book continues: “One might think a similar misery could be imagined. However, seeing these women in these sheds is worse than anything imaginable.”
She saw with her eyes a woman dying on the dirt. “I saw her rising on her elbows, handing me a wet baby; she was dying and supplicating.”
Mrs Fyein came in touch with Yemenis at different social levels, from the prince to the pauper. She realized the gap between them and recognized the irresponsibility and greed of the former.”
For her, Yemen was virgin and living in the Medieval Ages; a country that could at the time attract nobody but the anthropologists.

Mr. Mohsen Al-Aini, former Prime Minister, who translated the book into Arabic, said: “I was encouraged to go through the experience [of translating the book] until the end by my conviction that it deserves to be read by Arabs particularly Yemenis.”
In his preface to the book, martyr Mohammed Mahmoud Al-Zubairi, sympathized with the doctor who had experienced the thrill of “darkness” for one and a half-years.
“She was created and lived in Europe, her soul emanated from the twentieth century. But in Yemen she suddenly goes ten centuries back, and lives for a long time in the world of those centuries, she never resents, nor becomes haughty or afraid. However, her humanity transcends to be melted by the fire of pain, affection and mercy,” he concluded.