I first met the woman who has shared my joys and sorrows, my wife, Aline, in 1962. As I remember, it was at the Ecole des Mines. She was in the undergraduate programs for both Russian and English at the University of Nancy and was working on Russian literature, particularly on Gogol and Chekhov.
According to her more precise recollection, we first met in a corridor when she came to visit Ecole des Mines with a schoolmate. I invited her for a cup of coffee later, and that's how our relationship began.
Aline's parents were from Ukraine. Her father was a Ukrainian patriot and immigrated to France after World War I. His identity papers listed his nationality as Zaporogue Cossack in the era of the Czarist Empire.
My father-in-law firmly believed in the independence of Ukraine during the 1960s, when no one imagined, even for a second, the dissolution of Soviet Union. Aline has no recollection of exactly where her family's village was located, except that it was very close to Kiev. Through many visits to Ukraine I have always been moved by the question of their origin.
My wife grew up in Longwy, in northern Lorraine. Her first language was Ukrainian, followed by Russian, and she did not begin learning French until she was in elementary school at the age of 6. But she made such progress that in two to three years she began earning the top grades in her class.
Aline's elder brother Michel Rybalka went on to teach French literature at Washington University in the U.S. and has written many books, including several on Jean-Paul Sartre.
Aline was a person with tremendous charisma. I was drawn to the fact that in addition to regular works of Russian literature and English literature she was also interested in exotic works, like fantastic short stories and science fiction.
She also made her own clothes. She received a remarkable seamstress education from her mother. In Nancy, I remember she made a two-piece beige dress as beautiful as a Chanel and wore it very well. Her elegance stood out among female students of the time.
Nothing but gratitude
We fell in love with each other in 1963, and in 1964 were living together in Paris on Rue de la Tombe-Issoire, in the 14th arrondissement. We married on May 5, 1965, with only our families and very close friends in attendance. Right after the wedding we left for a week-long honeymoon in Venice, where she had never been.
When we married, I worked part-time while doing my economics studies at the University of Paris and the Institut d'Etudes Politiques, with the goal of enrolling at the ENA. Aline worked full time, doing jobs like taking care of foreign students visiting Paris.
After graduation, she worked at many companies and subsequently passed an exam to work at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs around 1970. Her job involved translation work relating to Russia and the former Soviet Union as well as English. She became head of the translation and interpretation department and then a diplomat.
During that time we were blessed with two sons. Our first, Alexis, was born in September of 1971, six years after our marriage. Our second son, Nicolas, was born in April of 1974. Alexis is now close to 43 and a marketing director at a mobile phone company. Nicolas is 40 and a banker, specializing in financing music projects.
My wife has a quiet, serene personality and she is a very sensible person. I am appreciative of the effort she put into raising our children while working part time. I shouldered many responsibilities and was always grappling with problems. There was little time I could steal away for my family and children, which put a heavy burden on her.
My wife says that I would come home normal, without carrying back any stress, but it was entirely thanks to her attentiveness that my family life and my work were compatible.
I have nothing but gratitude for her effort and devotion to fill the gap left by my absence and to educate the two boys.
Jean-Claude Trichet is former president of the European Central Bank.