The Caux Refuge: Ready for the next steps06/03/2023
24 February 2022 marks a day that many of us will not forget and divided the lives of many into ‘before’ and ‘after’. Since then, millions of displaced people have left their homes in Ukraine in search of a safe space.
Initiatives of Change Switzerland felt compelled to respond to the need and decided to offer accommodation and support at their centre in Caux. The Caux Refuge was born.
The Caux Palace has a long tradition of providing a safe space for people from conflict areas. It acted as a refugee centre during WWII, before Initiatives of Change bought the building with the purpose of restoring trust between people in post-war Europe.
The Caux Refuge was located in the Villa Maria next to the Caux Palace. Alina and her mother Liudmyla were the first Ukrainians welcomed at the Caux Refuge on 23 March 2022. ‘I am so thankful to all the members of the wonderful IofC and Caux community, who brought all the essentials – healthcare items, medicine, clothes and food, all with great generosity,’ Alina told Ukrainian journalist Anastasia Slyvinska.
Anastasia and her husband also found refuge in Caux and while she was there, Anastasia supported the Foundation’s communications department, giving her fellow Ukrainians in Caux a voice through a series of interviews.
The Caux Refuge quickly started filling up. Thirty-five Ukrainians, including eight families with children, stayed at the Villa Maria during the year. Some had a direct connection with IofC, others were sent by family members who had been to Caux or were part of the IofC- inspired Foundations for Freedom (F4F) network. For some, Caux was only a place to pause, gather strength and then move on. Others stayed the entire year.
They included people from all walks of life – a politician and his family, a teacher and her daughter, a nurse.
The children quickly integrated into local life. ‘The school here is fantastic. They organized a special class with five boys, a teacher and a translator’, said Anatolii, father of three teenage boys.
IofC Switzerland’s liaison officers, Ekaterina and Marina, helped the Caux Refuge residents enrol in French lessons (‘Language is crucial’, says Oksana), apply for internships and training, discover the social welfare system in Switzerland, explore Swiss culture and customs and and gain in autonomy.
Since that fatal day in February 2022, a year has gone by and the Ukrainians of the Caux Refuge have moved on. All but one have left the Villa Maria. Many have decided to stay in Switzerland and close to Caux.
This last year hasn’t been easy. But the Ukrainians of the Caux Refuge are now ready for their next steps.
We wish them all the very best for this next chapter in their life and are grateful that we were able to help and offer them a safe space in these difficult times.
So many have helped and supported us over this past year and we are grateful to each one of you. This list is by no means complete but we would like to name some of those who have been particularly involved in making the Caux Refuge a success:
- Ekaterina, Horia, Fabian, Adrien, Myriam, Edna, Claude, Valentin, Nick and Stephanie from IofC Switzerland
- Véronique and Sylvie from the Amis de Caux association
- Eliane, Andrew, Amandine, Marina and Alessandro from the village of Caux
- Victor, Greg, Patric, Ana, Patrick and Mica from a local hotel school
- Etablissement Vaudois d'Accueil des Migrants (EVAM), Commune de Montreux, Société de Développement de Caux, Amis de Caux, L’Armée du Salut, Office régional de placement (ORP), IofC Netherlands, IofC UK
A special thanks goes to all those who have responded to our call for donations and supported the Caux Refuge financially!
Without you, this year would not have been possible! THANK YOU!
Everything is forever changing. Nothing is permanent. Nothing can last forever. If the curve has gone down so drastically it means, at some point it is bound to go upwards again! Of this I am absolutely convinced and I have trust.
Oksana, Caux Refuge
Eliane Stallybrass lives in Caux and has supported the Caux Refuge with French lessons, an open ear, friendship, advice and practical help. Looking back on the past year she writes:
A year has gone by since the first Ukrainians arrived in Caux. Their time in Caux has enabled them to gain a foothold in Switzerland, to find security and to prepare themselves for their next steps which are still so uncertain.
They are taking French classes and the EVAM, the institution that looks after refugees in this canton in Switzerland, has allocated them a small sum of money so that they can settle ‘at home’ with their own lease. They have all found a flat and some of them are housed in the rectory of the Protestant Church in Montreux where 11 people, including families with children, are now free from the worry of finding somewhere to live. Their move to Montreux took place on 1 March. A local hotel school donated desks and tables, an organization offered beds and mattresses, and IofC Switzerland is happy to see chairs and tables, received 60 years ago for the Caux Palace dining room, finding a new life. There are also dishes, towels, sheets and duvets that have finally come out of the cupboards where they have been sleeping for years.
Several of the Ukrainians have become close friends. We celebrated Liuba’s 70th together and the oldest Caux Refuge resident, Anna, has an incredible gift for making friends. Everyone knows and loves her in Caux and even though she hasn't managed to learn more than ‘Hello, how are you?’ she will have coffee at everyone's house.
We will miss their smiles and their ‘Bonjour, ça va?’ here in Caux.
By Ulrike Ott Chanu and Eliane Stallybrass
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