Ukraine Comes to Villedommage

Early in April, when we visited Daniella and Pierre, we found Daniella on the floor of their tasting room, assembling a table for what, she said, was to be her new guest quarters.
Once she explained, I was so charmed that I asked her to send us the follow-up story so that we could post it on our site. Here is what she wrote…..

In late February, as Russia invaded Ukraine, the call went out in a number of European countries to prepare for an influx of refugees. The mayor of our village sent a message to all residents asking if there were any uninhabited homes that could be made available for Ukrainian refugees should the need arise. We are fortunate to have an outbuilding that houses our office and tasting room, which also has a kitchen and several rooms upstairs. Daniella’s parents, who live in Canada, would stay in the rooms when they were visiting for extended periods, and were in the process of renovating a bathroom upstairs. We let the mayor know that we had space available, but that the bathroom would only be finished in late March, so we could receive a family anytime thereafter.

There is a woman who lives in our village whose mother was Ukrainian, and she still has cousins who live there. She got a call in the early days of the conflict from one of these cousins, asking if he could send his two daughters-in-law with their grandchildren, as the city in which they lived was being bombed. Of course, she agreed, and she and her husband received these two young families a short time later. They were housed in an apartment adjacent to their home, although it was a space that was better-suited to temporary living for 2-4 people, and not as a long-term home for two adults and four children. So the couple asked the mayor if he might be able to help find them housing where they would be more comfortable. When he got this call, it was late March and he knew our renovations were almost done, so he got in touch to ask if they could move in. We consented, and they moved in on April 9, 2022.

The family is composed of two mothers, one with a 14-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter, the other with 12-year-old and 10-month-old sons. The 12-year-old boy has a fairly good grasp of English, but the others spoke very little English and no French at all when they arrived. This was surely a challenge, both for the mothers, in terms of doing day-to-day tasks like grocery shopping, and for the three older children, who began attending French school. But the people of our village created a WhatsApp group with some fifty members, so that when the family needed something (whether it be groceries, a ride somewhere, etc) they could use Google Translate and post their request on the group. There was always someone who was quick to volunteer and reply on the chat. Additionally, the local fruit and vegetable producer offered them free produce whenever they wanted, the mayor’s office opened an account with the butcher truck that comes around a couple of times per week and paid the bill for them, and two teachers in the village took it in turns to give the two women French lessons several times per week. It was very touching to see the community come together and be so eager to help in so many ways.

As I write this, the moms are in the process of packing up their belongings in anticipation of their return to Ukraine; the area where they live has been peaceful for some time now, and the children badly miss their fathers. Many of the other people they know who fled when they did have since returned home and they have decided to do the same. We wish them all the best and hope for their safety and that of their compatriots. And we look forward to seeing them again, they have promised to come for a visit in the future when the situation allows for them to travel for pleasure!

Region: News