Civil War Refugee Sworn in as Lawyer – aged 84

Louise Gomez del Busto a Spanish Civil War refugee who at 11, fled Franco’s repression for south-west France, has been sworn in as a lawyer at the Toulouse Bar — aged 84.

Louise Gomez del Busto on the Bruce Toussaint show on France 2 recounting how it took ten years to qualify for both the Toulouse and Barcelona Bar.

She told the Bruce Toussaint show on France 2 (watch the replay here) that after ten years of study during which she qualified to practice both in Toulouse and in her native Barcelona, she was hoping to use her knowledge to provide professional advice to consumer groups.

She told Bruce Toussaint and his surprised and delighted younger guests, that after working first in Beziers and then Castres at several jobs including secretarial work in a legal office, grape harvesting and sales at the local Monoprix outlet, she had retired at 60 and become involved with consumer groups.

Here she is on on France 3 on the day she was sworn in to the Toulouse Bar:

At the urging of her late husband and despite a lack of formal education except for primary schooling, she enrolled at Toulouse University to study law and complete all the stages needed for a degree. She did her articles under the supervision of Toulouse advocat, Me. Julien Soubiran and was encouraged “every step of the way” by the Dean of the Toulouse Law Faculty, Bernard Beignier who called her a wonderful example to all law students.

Not content however she then set off for Barcelona where, despite her French qualification, she was obliged to enrol and do it all again to obtain a Spanish law degree before she could be admitted to the Barcelona Bar.  Her biggest problem she told Bruce Toussaint, was that her French accent made her Spanish difficult to understand and she found she had forgotten a lot of her native tongue.

The mother of  two — born in Barcelona on 17 August 1928 —  fled Spain because as she told Toussaint, her father was a Spanish republican fiercely opposed to Franco. “By returning more than 70 years later to be sworn in as a Spanish lawyer I felt I was getting back some of the youth that Franco robbed me of,” she said.

Me. Soubiran (31) who was also on the show, praised his pupil’s achievement as a “wonderful success story” saying her “somewhat unorthodox route into the profession was a clear reflection of the region’s recent history”.

Sworn in at the Toulouse Bar at the end of October she told Le Point her success was all due to her late husband, Victor who had encouraged her to enrol and supported her as she studied.

Louise Gomez del Busto, 84, flanked by her law tutor, Me Julien Soubiran, 31, and guests on the Bruce Toussaint show on France 2

He, a Franco-era refugee like herself, he joined the French Resistance in World War II  before being  arrested and deported to Dachau. He was later awarded the Military Medal and the French Legion of Honour. Like her, he had, she said, worked at  everything, “grape harvesting, farmwork ,and building “.  Thus it was that on the day before the La Toussaint (All Saints Day) national holiday she was at her local cemetery bearing flowers “so I could thank Victor because it was through him that I have become a lawyer.”

Story: Ken Pottinger


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