Basque Fact of the Week: Ana María Bidegaray, the Basque Spy

Ana María Bidegaray, born in Hazparne, Laburdi in 1890, provided critical humanitarian aid and worked as a spy in both World War I and II. Raised in Uruguay, she married Raymond Janssen, Consul General of Belgium in Uruguay. Collaborating with the British and French secret services, she used her husband’s diplomatic ties to gain intel on German prison camps and helped create a rescue network for prisoners of war, the so-called Bidegaray Network, which allowed Belgian prisoners to cross into the allied zone and also helped to feed the civilian population. At the end of and just after World War II, she collaborated with the Basque Government in exile to identify and capture Spanish, Italian and German agents who sought residence in Uruguay. As Ana María said, “Por este mundo solo se pasa una vez y quiero que ese paso que sea bueno.” — “We only pass by this world once, and I want mine to be good.”

Image from Deia.
  • Though her parents were living in Uruguay, they returned to Hazparne for Ana María’s birth, to ensure she was born in the “Basque cradle.”
  • Ana María was decorated twice, first by King Albert I of Belgium for her efforts in World War I and by the Red Cross for her efforts in World War II.
  • The Bidegaray Network may have inspired the Comet Line, which helped Allied soldiers escape main land Europe for Britain.
  • She also wrote Cuna Vasca, a canonical biography of a Basque immigrant in America.

Sources: Deia and Noticias de Alava.

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