Words from the Wise: Mimi Wind is a native of Belgium who lived in Greenwich nearly 50 years
M: I was born in the French-speaking part of Belgium… Belgium has two languages, Flemish and French, and the majority is Flemish -- about six million people -- and the French part has about four million people.
J: What year were you born?
M: I was born in 1932, so I’m 85.
J: How long did you live in Belgium?
M: I lived there until I was 21 years old.
J: Do you still have family there now?
M: Yes. But you know, I was there during the Second World War, naturally, so the reason I came to the States is that I met some American soldiers, surgeons, that were living in my house. When the Americans came to Belgium my parents said we will lodge any American soldier -- we could have four -- so we had a group of four surgeons who came, because there was a first-aid hospital for the Army where my father had been a teacher. Where there used to be a school there became a hospital for surgeons. And one of them stayed with us for a month. And he started to teach me some English. He said, “When you are in college you have to come to the United States,” and my parents said, “Yes, that would be nice.” But when the time came, they were not too sure that they would let me go myself -- because then you had to take a boat. You didn’t fly that much. Six days on the boat and I had never really traveled.
J: And they’d be worried about you the whole time.
M: Yes. And I came here, and on that boat was the man who was going to become my future husband.
M: And he was Swiss. Swiss-German... We met on the boat. But I cannot tell the whole story; it is too long. But ...we wrote to each other.
J: Where did you go to college?
M: Liege, (Belgium), a teacher’s college there. So ...then I finished everything and my husband came back -- but I didn’t know he was going to be my husband. He came and I said, “If you have time to come from Switzerland to Belgium, it would be nice to see you again.” And of course he was happy to come. He came in December and we were married in February. Isn’t that crazy?
J: How old was he?
M: He was 31 and I was 21.
J: What did you do in the United States?
M: Well, the first year I was really getting used to being, first, a married woman at 21, and a new language, although I knew it very well. And I had to buy things. I had to go to the supermarket, to the laundromat, you know things like that.
M: The second year, I worked for one year with him in his office while I was pregnant. Then I had my first baby at the end of that second year. And then, of course, I had six children altogether, so I didn’t go back to work.
J: And you both came here and decided to live in the United States together.
M: Yes, he was in New York. He had his office on Fifth Avenue… So that’s part one of my story. We stayed for two years in Queens.
J: What did you think of the U.S. when you first saw it?
M: I loved it. I always loved it. The U.S. and the English language. I love languages… Then we moved to Greenwich. We built our own house in bricks -- because in Europe we believe in bricks and stones, and not wood. So we were near Bedford Road in Greenwich and built our house there, and we lived there for 23 years and raised our children there. Then we lived in Riverside and lived there for 25 years. And then we moved to Stamford and that’s when my husband died. He was 86 when he died, that was about 10 years ago. Then I moved because that house was right over the Long Island Sound, the deck, and living alone like that was too scary for me, with hurricanes and all that. So I live in a townhouse in Darien and I have a son that lives in Darien, a daughter that lives in Norwalk, and she works in Greenwich, and the other children live in Massachusetts -- and I have 11 grandchildren.
J: And the street you lived on was Bedford?
M: It was near there. The school was so far away. You know it was Parkway School. Very north of Greenwich. And when they had friends over, it was like driving all day long… But then we lived for 25 years in Riverside and it was a dream because everything was so close by. But when my kids went to school, I did a lot of volunteer work in the school because I was trained as a teacher but I never practiced… I would spend half a day at each school every week and I enjoyed that because I wanted to know how schools were in the United States… Then in the ’60s I got involved in the Alliance Francaise and that was so unbelievable. It was nice to speak my language... French — you didn’t meet it so often…
J: And the Alliance has been around for a long time.
M: It was founded in 1911. And we do so many many things. I was president for four years in the ’80s and I’m still on the board. And I joined around ’65... Now I show movies at Cos Cob Library.. I started that in 1996.. A little bit at the real library, but I’m still there, still doing it. I like older movies, classical movies. Once in a while, I play a newer movie, but you have to have something to say about it.. You analyze it and so on. Anyone can come... And we are going to have a film festival (at the end of April) for I think the 14th year. We are going to have movie directors and everything, and we will show them at the Railroad Station movie theater, and a couple at the Avon in Stamford.
J: Thank you so much, Mimi.
M: Thank you.
Email Jennifer Turiano at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter: @jturianoGT and Instagram: @greenwichgreen.