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Marigny Painting: The Barn, And The Back Story

As part of Westport’s fundraising for Lyman — our new sister city in Ukraine — “06880” auctioned off a painting of Marigny-le-Louzon, France.

It was donated by our friends in Marigny, Westport’s other sister city. The relationship extends more than 75 years. We helped the Normandy town rebuild after World War II. Now, together, we are helping another ravaged place, this one in Ukraine.

Wendy Van Wie won the painting, with a bid of $1,500. But there’s more to this story than just a Westport resident helping an important relief effort.

Wendy and her husband Mark Yurkiw live on Cross Highway. Their home — the Meeker homestead — stood on the route taken by British soldiers in 1777, as they headed to Danbury to burn an arsenal. (A musket ball lodged in the door provided evidence of the event.)

The home on Cross Highway. (Photo/Amy Dolego)

Wendy and Mark bought the foreclosed property in 2003. After 2 centuries, the barn and 1728 saltbox house — already half a century old when the British marched past — had fallen into disrepair.

The couple rehabilitated their home, barn and cottage. Their attention to detail earned them a 2017 Historic District Commission preservation award.

interior of the barn, after renovation.

Today it’s known as the Schilthuis-Meeker house. Sally Schilthuis was influential in preventing construction of Merritt Parkway Exit 43 in the area, resulting in the current “No Man’s Land” between Exits 42 and 44.

Schilthuis died in 1975. Her obituary noted that her barn served as a meeting place for Westporters planning aid for post-war Marigny.

Cross Highway barn. (Photo/Amy Dolego)

The barn still serves an important relief role. Mark — whose heritage is Ukrainian — has worked tirelessly since the Russian invasion began to provide help for his homeland.

His current project –besides playing a key role with Lyman — is collecting generators, chain saws, sleeping bags, phone power banks, kerosene heaters, rechargeable batteries, blankets, pillows, warm winter clothing and more. It’s sent overseas, when space becomes available in shipping containers.

The gear — all donated by generous Westporters — is stored in that very same barn. (You can still help. Call Mark:  646-873-0050.)

Donations for Ukraine outside Mark Yurkiw and Wendy Van Wie’s barn — with the country’s familiar blue and yellow symbol of resistance.

As part of Wendy and Mark’s historic preservation work, they received a perpetual easement. Their barn is protected from any future demolition.

That’s where Wendy’s new painting will hang. It will keep the story of the Westport/Marigny connection — and the 2 towns’ new relationship with Lyman — alive.

“Long after Mark and I are gone, this will remind and inspire future generations,” Wendy says.

“The painting, and its back story, will become a permanent part of the permanent barn.”

This Marigny scene by Roger Potier will soon hang in Wendy Van Wie’s Cross Highway barn.

Tax-deductible donations can still be made to Westport’s sister city, Lyman, through Ukraine Aid International. Please click here. Click the “I want to support” box; then select “Support for the City of Lyman.” Scroll down on that page for other tax-deductible donation options (mail, wire transfer and Venmo). You can also donate directly, via Stripe (click here).

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