Mary Meaney Haynes open up French castle for Ukrainian refugees

25 March 2022 2 min. read

A former McKinsey partner is set to accommodate dozens of refugees on her estate in France. Mary Meaney Haynes left the firm in the summer of last year, and is now actively involved in helping accommodate Ukrainian refugees in the Hauts-de-France region.

Tilques is a commune in northern France. One of the place’s biggest attractions is the Château d'Écou – a listed historical site, which dates from the 13th century and it owes its name to Lord Willelmus of Ekout.

The site includes multiple artefacts from a long and complicated history. These include a medieval mound, a relic of the battle of 1595 between the lords of Écou and Ardres, a piece of wood marked with the year 1664, an English wing from the 18th century, and a tree scarified with a swastika dating from the Second World War.

Mary Meaney Haynes open up her French castle for Ukrainian refugees

All these features note the contrasting lives and fortunes of the inhabitants of the Château d'Écou through the centuries. It is now home to Mary Meaney Haynes, husband Ian, and their six children. The castle became the property of her family more than eighty years ago – and in the latest chapter of the venue’s complex history, they have decided to share the space with Ukrainian refugees, as Russia’s invasion of the country rages on.

Nearly 5,000 Ukrainians have arrived in France so far, and more are on the way, according to French officials, and the Haynes family have been determined to do their part to help out. The war began one month ago, and in the time since, Meaney Haynes has welcomed no less than eleven Ukrainian orphans from the Kyiv region of Ukraine onto the property.

Meaney Haynes formerly spent 24 years with McKinsey & Company, among others serving as one of the leaders of its Operations practice and a member of the board of directors. After exiting the company last summer, she is now a member of the trans-Atlantic Saint-Omer Foundation, and has recently used her networks to try to arrange transport for around 50 Ukrainian refugees to France.

“I got in touch with the Ukrainian consul in the Hauts-de-France and the mayor of Saint-Omer, François Decoster, to see what can be done,” she explained to local newspaper La Voix du Nord. “I saw all these terrible images on TV, people forced to flee their homes. And I said to myself that something had to be done at all costs. We cannot remain unmoved in the face of such grave events.”

The former McKinsey partner has ties to Ukraine herself. She previously worked for a number of years with Ukrainian companies, visiting Kyiv on multiple occasions. In particular, she stated having got along “very well with the CEO of Naftogaz”, the largest Ukrainian gas company.

The CEO “wanted Ukraine to gain independence from Russia”, and she asserted that there had already been “several attempts to assassinate him for this.” She has not had news of her friend since the invasion of Russia began.