Little refugee, 1916

1Agence Rol / Bibliothèque Nationale de France. No copyright – other known legal restrictions

At the center of this image sits a little girl, resting on a pile of luggage, dressed in layers of wool. These must have been most welcome in December 1916, when the picture was taken at the railway station of Evian – a modest town in the French region of Haute-Savoie. The building seems derelict, although the number of bags in the front and in the background suggests many more people being on the move. And so they were: during World War I, Evian welcomed no less than 375.000 refugees, for the larger part inhabitants of German-occupied regions authorized to return to France. Evian came to the rescue of thousands of these repatriates, establishing aid and solidarity. The municipality collected clothing and shoes, and organized charity galas to raise extra funds. To this day, a marble plate at the Evian casino and a monument in white stone bear witness to the town’s extraordinary generosity.

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