An architecture of care in Calais

At the Maria Skobtsova House, refugees and volunteers work to counteract the cruel logic of the refugee crisis.

“Never underestimate the power of the house,” reads a small sign hanging on the wall of the Maria Skobtsova House in Calais, a port city in northern France.

The house in question is a row house in a middle-class neighborhood with partially trimmed hedges and rose bushes. The only thing that sets this house apart from every other house on the block is a simple sign taped to the window that says, “Maria Skobtsova Refugee House.”

On the day in June when I arrived, the front windows were wide open to catch a breeze. Ieva, a young Latvian woman and frequent volunteer, opened the door for me. We’d arranged to meet at 9:30 and maybe have prayer.