The Caux Refuge Project

Caux Refuge banner EN


What is the Caux Refuge?

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, millions of displaced people have left their homes in search of a safe space. As the European Centre of Initiatives of Change, we feel compelled to reach out and help those in need.

The Caux Refuge is located in the Villa Maria, right next to the Caux Palace. It currently offers space for up to 30 people and we work closely with local authorities with respect to the law.


Why are we doing this?

Initiatives of Change Switzerland has a long tradition of providing a safe space for people from conflict areas. In fact, the Caux Conference and Seminar Centre acted as a refugee centre during WWII before Initiatives of Change bought the building with the sole purpose of restoring trust between people in post-war Europe.

For many years, the conferences in Caux Conference and Seminar Centre have benefitted not only from the contribution of many inspiring speakers and facilitators from Eastern Europe, but also from the practical support from people from Ukraine. This is largely thanks to Foundations for Freedom, a trustbuilding programme for Eastern Europe that was born in Caux in the early ‘90s, and the Weeks of International Community.


Each story counts!

Anastasia Slyvinska

Discover the Caux Refuge interviews, a series of conversations, conducted by Ukrainian journalist Anastasia Slyvinska, with people affected by the war in Ukraine who have found temporary shelter at the Caux Refuge.




'Light will conquer darkness'

On the morning of 24 February, Alina Shymanska and her mother Liudmyla woke up to the news that the Russian army had bombed a military airport in her native city Zhytomyr, Ukraine, just 10 kilometers from their home. That morning divided the lives of many Ukrainians into “before” and “after”.

'We were incredibly lucky'

For more than a week Anatolii, Tetiana, and their three sons lived without electricity, heating or water in freezing temperatures in the village of Horenka near Kyiv. After a long journey through Ukraine and the EU they have now found peace in Caux.

'Ukraine and our children have a great future'

Before the war in Ukraine broke out, Nadia Donos enjoyed her dream job as a Ukrainian language and literature teacher. Now based at the Caux Refuge, Nadia continues to teach children in Ukraine full-time online and already has plans to volunteer as a teacher for Ukrainian refugee children in Geneva.

A family split between Ukraine, Germany and Switzerland

As the war in Ukraine has been raging for 3 months, Oksana Stelmakh, a nurse from Kharkiv, reflects on how the situation has impacted her family, now scattered over 3 different countries. Since her arrival in Caux early April she and a friend have been staying at the Caux Refuge, slowly taking steps into a new future.

'If it wasn't already my job, I would probably be doing it anyway'

Marina Raffin is originally from Moldova, but has been living in the village of Caux for several years now. A neighbour of the Caux Palace, she very quickly stepped in to support the Caux Refuge project and help those who have been come to stay there since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.

'Seemingly small things can bring a lot of good to someone's life.'

Ekaterina Gross has been working as a liaison officer at the Caux Refuge project since April 2022, sharing the position with a collague. Here she reflects on her mission on supporting the Caux Refuge residents in their new life in Switzerland and what this time means to her.


Lost in Translation: Volunteering at the Caux Refuge

When the first Ukrainians arrived at the Caux Refuge at the IofC conference centre in Caux, Eliane Stallybrass and her husband Andrew were amongst the first volunteers to welcome them at the Villa Maria and to offer support. Eliane knew that learning French would be essential for them to help them settle down more easily and she quickly set up French lessons.

Tag Reference