Mélinée Manouchian ( Mélinée Assadourian, 1913 - 1989) was a French-Armenian resistant, the widow of Missak Manouchian.
She was born in 1913 in Constantinople. During the Armenian Genocide she lost her parents and was taken, along with her elder sister, to a Protestant orphanage in Smyrne. Then she moved to Corinth, Greece. After 1926 she lived in Marseilles, France, where she learned Armenian and studied accounting. She met her future husband Missak Manouchian in 1934. In 1935 she became secretary of the Armenian Relief Committee. She was in close contact with Charles Aznavour's family.
According to Aida Aznavour, the Manouchians "during the long years — and what years! — played an outstanding role in the life of our family". During the French Resistance she became a heroic companion to her husband. She "posed incognito at the scene of a guerilla attack to observe carefully the movements of each actor and note the results of the operation and the reaction of the public". From the early 1940s she regularly made, copied and distributed forbidden anti-fascist literature. When Missak was arrested for the first time, she asked Micha Aznavourian to take her to the camp at Compiègne on his bicycle. She succeeded in passing some food to her husband (the prisoner No351) and even visited him for a second.
After the last arrest of Missak, she was sentenced to death in absentia, but was hidden and saved by the Aznavourians. After World War II she lived and worked in Yerevan, then in the 1960s she returned to Paris. In 1954 she wrote her memoirs about Missak, which were made into a film in 1985. Manouchian implied strongly that the individuals who betrayed the Manouchian Group could be found in the leadership of the Communist Party of France. She launched a public debate by stating that comrades of the victims had done nothing to prevent their capture and execution.
The last letter
My dear Melinée, my beloved little orphan,
In a few hours I will no longer be of this world. We are going to be executed today at 3:00. This is happening to me like an accident in my life; I don't believe it, but I nevertheless know that I will never see you again.
What can I write you? Everything inside me is confused, yet clear at the same time.
I joined the Army of Liberation as a volunteer, and I die within inches of victory and the final goal. I wish for happiness for all those who will survive and taste the sweetness of the freedom and peace of tomorrow. I'm sure that the French people, and all those who fight for freedom, will know how to honor our memory with dignity. At the moment of death, I proclaim that I have no hatred for the German people, or for anyone at all; everyone will receive what he is due, as punishment and as reward. The German people, and all other people, will live in peace and brotherhood after the war, which will not last much longer. Happiness for all ... I have one profound regret, and that's of not having made you happy; I would so much have liked to have a child with you, as you always wished. So I'd absolutely like you to marry after the war, and, for my happiness, to have a child and, to fulfill my last wish, marry someone who will make you happy. All my goods and all my affairs, I leave them to you and to my nephews. After the war you can request your right to a war pension as my wife, for I die as a regular soldier in the French army of liberation.
With the help of friends who'd like to honor me, you should publish my poems and writings that are worth being read. If possible, you should take my memory to my parents in Armenia. I will soon die with 23 of my comrades, with the courage and the serenity of a man with a peaceful conscience; for, personally, I've done no one ill, and if I have, it was without hatred. Today is sunny. It's in looking at the sun and the beauties of nature that I loved so much that I will say farewell to life and to all of you, my beloved wife, and my beloved friends. I forgive all those who did me evil, or who wanted to do so, with the exception of he who betrayed us to redeem his skin, and those who sold us out. I ardently kiss you, as well as your sister and all those who know me, near and far; I hold you all against my heart. Farewell. Your friend, your comrade, your husband,
P.S. I have 15,000 francs in the valise on the rue de Plaisance. If you can get it, pay off all my debts and give the rest to Armenia. MM
In 1955, on the occasion of the dedication of a street in the 20th arrondissement of Paris named for the Mamouchian group, Louis Aragon wrote a poem, "Strophes pour se souvenir", loosely inspired by the last letter that Missak Manouchian wrote to his wife Mélinée:
Mélinée oh my love my orphaned one,
I tell you to live and bear children.
After the execution of Missak, Melinee never married again, she never had a child