Sister Françoise Dillies, currently in the Ehpad St Jean in Lille, has spent most of her life in Kabylia. When an opportunity arose, she spontaneously accepted to be photographed dressed as a “Kabyle woman” and with great simplicity, she let her heart speak and told us how happy she is to have lived with the women of this country.
I have been very blessed in my life because I have only served in Kabylia where I learned the Kabyle language which is not easy; this was with Sister Madeleine Alain, the great linguist. We were a small group and so it was like private lessons well adapted to each one.
I began my journey by teaching at the elementary school in Beni-Yeni, for a couple of years. Then I was asked to come to France for a while. After that, I had the chance to return to Beni-Yeni. Because of the war of independence, as the families were afraid that their daughters would go out, they entrusted them to us like treasures. These girls came from three villages located on the top of the mountains. So I have always lived with the Kabyles.
During the war of liberation, I fled to Algiers and I met the Kabyles who had come down from the mountains because of an Islamist movement which was becoming important. Shortly after, I was appointed to the Palmiers, in the center of Algiers. There, I took an exam that allowed me to take evening-courses in literature. This was at the university which was just a short distance from our community. During the day, I kept the university library located in our house. How many Kabyles I met there!
And then, as it can happen, I was asked to come back to France, as provincial! At that time, there were 400 sisters. It was not easy, I was 39 years old… Fortunately, I had been a provincial assistant in Algeria and that helped me.
Six years later, I returned to Kabylia and once again we had to flee to Algiers. But there again, I found the Kabyles–Kabylia in Algiers!
Then I was asked to serve in France, where for 12 years I lived in the community of Gay Lussac. There again, how many Kabyles did I have the opportunity to meet!
Now I am in Lille in a neighborhood where there are many Kabyles. My best friend, a Kabyle, lives nearby and she often comes to see me.
My life has been like a golden thread since the beginning! In my room – on the wall – a Kabyle woman is making pottery, another one is burning it, a mosque, the snow-covered mountain range of the Djurdjura, and below, the village where I was living.
I look at this and always thank God.
Sr. Françoise Dillies interviewed by Sr. Nicole Robion