Mrs. Wojcik meticulously weeds her bed of daffodils, casting an eye on the small group of visitors advancing in the direction of the Notre-Dame-des-Mineurs church. At 76, the talkative and warm lady has never left La Clochette, a garden city in Douai built between 1925 and 1927 to accommodate immigrant workers from the interwar period, in particular the Poles.
The brick houses could do with a good lick of paint, some are boarded up, others littered with weeds. The municipality is restoring some of them to install families in social housing. But Hélène Wojcik’s pavilion is clean: two bedrooms, a living room and a pretty garden on a plot of 450 m2.
“These streets were the flagship of the Compagnie des mines d’Aniche. My family were Poles from Nord-Pas-de-Calais, like two-thirds of the troops sent to the bottom. They worked hard.” she says.
Grandfather, father, uncle, cousin… among the Wojciks, we were “black mouths”. Hélène is used to telling her story, because she sees visitors pass through her garden city. As for the church, it also has a small effect: the ceiling of the nave evokes the mining galleries, while the decor flirts with Art Deco.
Visiting mines rather than castles, climbing on slag heaps rather than going down rafting… This is the new tourist trend of recent years. “France has a