Rural Normandy is known for its quiet slow life. The peaceful tranquillity that comes with kilometres of rolling green fields filled with cows, maize, and barley. Fougerolles-du-Plessis is a town that pertains to this lifestyle. It is your usual rural town, weekly market, large central church, a buzzing thriving community – and now being a central hub for Ukrainian refugees.
The centre was set up at the beginning of April after the kind donation of space in the old sweet factory on the edge of Fougerolles-du-Plessis. The building itself is a typical late 20th-century architecture being large looming grey concrete, almost brutalist in its oprressive demeanour but inside holds a community space that is quite the opposite to its concrete facade. It is a place where people can donate useful items, food, and other goods to aid the refugees who arrived in Normandy with nothing but their passport and clothes on their backs. It is also a social environment to share cultures, and experiences and meet friends – this has created an atmosphere that ignites joy.
The association was set up by president Hayley Gilks in order to provide a way for people to assist in the Ukrainian crisis. As an initial group to coordinate sending supplies to the Ukrainian border has grown and flourished into a local community providing for 42 refugees in the area.
There have been some amazingly charitable donations in terms of items as well as housing and other opportunities, it’s been very humbling to know the kindness of people in the area.
Personally, I can not imagine what it must be like to be living my normal life, have a good job, nice apartment, great friends and then suddenly have to leave everything to live in a strange new place. Have none of your personal expressions in terms of clothes and items, no real space that is yours. Going from independent life to relying on strangers for the basics. I can’t imagine how difficult it is as well as traumatic.
Using google translate to communicate along with body language and simple phrases, you would think that it would be impossible to co-ordinate such as thriving place, however people on both sides of the community, the people of Fougerolles and the surrounding area, and the Ukrainians themselves in learning and exchanging languages and cultures.
However, there is still a need for support and help. The ongoing war in Ukraine does not appear to have an ending and therefore the centre will need continuous support. Whether it is by money donations or local donations of food, resources or even time.
To help feel free to contact the organisation by the following:
Far from my usual posts about living in Normandy, but still an important aspect of life in rural Normandy. Community is a huge part of life here with an emphasis on helping others!