Victoria, thank you for sitting down to this interview. Since you are in constant danger, I promise I will not publish this until after the war. I hope we can meet up again if you survive the war. It is very brave of you and your four counterparts to be willing to be sent by the OSS into Nazi occupied Paris. Dragonfly is an interesting code name for the group since they are almost impossible to snare and have no blind spots with the ability to escape.Collectively each of you are smart, capable, innovative, honest, resourceful, and of course you are all loyal patriots.
Elise Cooper: How would you describe yourself?
Victoria Grayson: “Put-offing” because of my natural reserve and the assumption that outwardly beautiful people of wealth and education are unapproachable. To my great regret, I do not possess the nature by which to convince them otherwise.
EC: Why the code name Liverwort?
VG: It’s a plant that people do not give just due because of its ugliness. It is similar to how beautiful people are often denied appreciation for their inner qualities because of being blinded by outward appearances.
EC: Do you consider yourself a non-conformist?
VG: No. I would consider myself a traditionalist.
EC: Why did you take up the hobby of fencing?
VG: Because of a natural skill and my attraction to the grace, discipline, and civility of the sport.
EC: Did you ever think your beauty can be used to your advantage?
VG: Of course!
EC: Did you ever truly love someone?
VG: Ralph DuPont, my fiancé who was MIA, with all my heart.
EC: Besides wanting to find your fiancé was there another reason you joined the OSS?
VG: I wouldn’t have gone to France had it not been for my fiancé, so I doubt that I would have joined the OSS. I would have sought another way to serve my country to do my part as my fiancé and brother were doing theirs.
EC: Do you think good people can be caught up doing bad things?
VG: Yes. I’d like to think that the Nazi SS Colonel Albrecht was essentially a good man misled beyond escape by a corrupt leader he believed in. Lots of people make bad choices for what they believe to be the right reasons, but eventually, we pay for those mistakes.
EC: Do you think Colonel Derrick Albrecht was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?
VG: Oh no, because Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde had dual personalities resulting from some erratic brain disorder. Colonel Albrecht was a rational man in control of his thoughts and actions. His deeds were deliberate and calculated, not generated by dysfunctional urges.
EC: What happened in your youth?-Has it influenced you?
VG: I had a perfect childhood, not only because it was one of great privilege but because I was loved by my family. There was, however, the “Grayson code” that my brother and I were expected to live up to, a set of principles. We were to live with the honor and courage set forth by our ancestors. Sometimes that type of set rules results in a rigid exterior which perhaps explains mine.
EC: What did you learn about the French culture?
VG: That is a difficult question to answer since I was only in Paris, at a time when the pleasures, gaiety, and delight thought of as part of French culture had been snuffed by the German occupation. The French could not “be themselves.” Their city has become dark.
EC: Of your other four co-patriots who did you feel closest to?
VG: Well, of course, being a woman, I was closest to Bridgette who became the sister I never had. I adored her. But the boys . . . such fine men. Who could not love them, treasure their goodness and kindness, enjoy their humor and fun-loving natures. As we came to know one another, I was protective of them as if they were my siblings.
EC: If you could make a wish what would it be?
VG: That the world would learn to live in peace, that the money to wage war and outfit armies would be converted to feed the hungry, care for the sick and elderly and poor, provide shelter for the homeless, and educate people to love thy neighbor. Think what a wonderful world that would be.
EC: Do you still have hopes and dreams or do you consider yourself a cynic?
VG: I certainly do not consider myself a cynic. Cynics are people who are ungrateful for the blessings they have, especially the blessing of living in the United States. Living in Paris and seeing what I have seen, has made me grateful that I am an American.
Leila Meacham is a writer and former teacher who lives in San Antonio, Texas. She is the author of the bestselling novels Roses, Tumbleweeds, Somerset, and Titans. She started her writing career in her 60s, publishing her bestseller “Roses” at 70.