Gali Hagondokoff, great lady of Free France

Refugee from Russia between 1928 and 1934

Hala Elmiskhan Hagondokoff, known as Gali, was born in St. Petersburg (Russia) on 6 February 1898 to General Constantin Hagondokoff, a Cherkessian who was then a lieutenant in the Imperial Army, and Elizabeth von Bredow, a descendant of an old military dynasty of Prussian origin.

At the age of seventeen, Gali Hagondokoff volunteered to care for the war-wounded and met a seriously wounded officer of the Imperial Guard, whom she married in 1917. The Bolshevik Revolution forced them to flee with their young son. They first took refuge in Shanghai, in the French concession. After her divorce, she joined her family in 1922, which had been living in exile in Paris.

Recognised as a Nansen refugee by the Russian Refugee Office, Gali Hagondokoff worked as a model for Chanel. She then took charge of a fashion house owned by Prince Youssoupoff. Married in 1934 to Count Ladislas du Luart, she became Leila du Luart and opted for French citizenship.
During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), she began to set up a system of surgical ambulances to provide emergency treatment for the wounded on the spot. She travelled across combat zones and personally helped to care for the wounded on both sides. She continued this activity in France during the “Phoney War" (September 1939-10 May 1941) and then took part in the Battle of France from May to June 1940, the Tunisian campaign in 1943, the Italian campaign with Marshal Juin, and then served alongside Marshal de Lattre de Tassigny and the 1st Army, which she followed to Austria.

In November 1943, Countess Ladislas du Luart became the godmother of the 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment (REC). She was appointed its honorary chief brigadier on 25 December 1944. At the end of the war, she set up a rest centre in Algeria for the troops serving in the backlands, and then devoted the rest of her life and fortune to the Foreign Legion.

She died on 21 January 1985. Military honours were paid to her remains. In the military sphere, she has been distinguished as Commandeur de la Légion d’Honneur (Commander of the Legion of Honour), Grand Officier de l’Ordre National du Mérite (Grand Officer of the National Order of Merit), and has received six commendations, including three in the Army Order.