A tiny French village has transformed itself into a symbol of Canadiana to mark 100 years since the battle of Vimy Ridge.
Givenchy En-Gohelle — population 2,000 — has been blanketed in more than 500 Canadian flags, covering everything from garbage bins to beer bottles.
Givenchy resident Richard Bouzen spent months planting a memorial garden along with a Canadian flag in his backyard, which marks the spot where an Allied plane was shot down in the First World War.
“It’s a tribute to all of the Canadians who died for France,” he said.
The village is home to Canada’s Vimy Memorial — a towering reminder of the sacrifice Canadians made here a century ago.
During the war, the quaint village was utterly decimated and occupied for three years by the German army.
But its residents returned and rebuilt after the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
“For us, the (centenary) commemorations last much longer than a week,” says Givenchy’s Mayor Pierre Senechal.
Last year, he officially declared 2017 to be the “Year of Canada.”
“Givenchy is a Canadian village. I hope Canadians who come here know that our home is their home,” he says.
Residents in Givenchy have spent many months preparing to welcome the thousands of Canadian visitors who are arriving for the centenary commemorations on April 9.
The Godard family is one of dozens who opened their homes to complete strangers, offering Canadians a place to stay free of charge.
The family even took English language lessons for several months so they could converse with their Canadian guests.
“It means a lot,” says Luke Garwood, one of three Canadians staying at the Godard residence. Garwood’s great-grandfather fought at Vimy.
“It’s really nice to see an appreciation and a respect for our forefathers — people who did come over here and did die, trying to defend another country,” he says.
Canadian Valerie Bince-Stuart moved to Givenchy 17 years ago.
She says local children grow up learning about Canada’s contribution.
“You could be driving your car in the area, and you’re going to be driving by three or four cemeteries with Canadian soldiers in them. So it’s part of our everyday lives.”