Maria Casarès, actress

Refugee from Spain between 1936 and 1979

She was born Maria Victoria Casarès Perez in A Coruña, Galicia, on 21 November 1922. Her father, Santiago Casarès Quiroga, was Prime Minister of the Popular Front government at the time of the coup on 17 July 1936. Maria's father fought on the Guadarrama front, while she left Spain for France with her mother, arriving in Paris on 20 November 1936.

Maria Casarès, who had started acting in Spain, continued to engage in her passion in France. She overcame language difficulties and went on to join the renowned state theatre troupe, Comédie-Française, before joining famous actor and director Jean Vilar at the Théâtre National Populaire. She said: “We don't talk about the homeland enough when it comes to exile. That’s what exile is: losing your homeland.” She would present herself as follows:

My name is Maria Casarès. I was born in November 1942 at the Théâtre des Mathurins. I was raised under the tutelage of Marcel Herrand and Jean Marchat. Theatre is my homeland.

Maria Casarès is one of the greatest French actresses of the second half of the 20th century. She has also appeared in twenty-odd films, including Les enfants du paradis (Children of Paradise). Maria Casarès won the prestigious Molière award in 1989 for her role in Hecuba by Euripides, directed by Bernard Sobel.

She died on 22 November 1996. Her distinctions include: Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour) and Commandeur des Arts et Lettres (Commander of Arts and Letters). She recounted her life in exile in Résidente privilégiée (Privileged resident) (Fayard Publications, 1980), and it was "dedicated to all displaced persons".

Maria Casarès, who had no descendants, donated her La Vergne estate – located on the right bank of the Charente River – to the commune of Alloue. Since then, the site has been serving as a melting pot and residence dedicated to the art of acting, having taken the name “La Maison du Comédien Maria Casarès” (Actress Maria Casarès House).