Stéphane Ravacley, a baker with a “social heart”

“One day, we get up and we fight”: determined man with “social heart”, the baker of Besançon Stéphane Ravacley did not hesitate to put himself in danger, starting a hunger strike, to wrest the regularization of his Guinean apprentice.

He was neither militant nor politicized, just a “little baker who knows no one” but who could not bear to see his Guinean apprentice, a “good kid”, hardworking and dreaming of a better life, dedicated to expulsion. “Before Laye arrived, I was not particularly interested in the fate of these young people.”

Behind the gentle gaze of this sensitive 50-year-old man, who wears cropped hair, hides a fierce determination.

Despite poor health – he suffered three pulmonary embolisms – Stéphane Ravacley began a hunger strike two weeks ago to protest against the expulsion of Laye Fodé Traoré. And he held on. Until the discomfort after losing eight kilos. Until winning Thursday with the regularization of the young Guinean.

“I am proud of my boss and the fight he led,” said the young orphan upon hearing the news.

His hunger strike barely over, Stéphane Ravacley was already busy Friday, alone in his bakery, in a sleeveless white and fleece T-shirt. “I like to be alone with my flour, my bread,” he says.

Although he stopped eating for ten days, this tireless worker never stopped working, from 3 a.m. to 8 p.m., six days a week, while answering tirelessly and with ease. requests from dozens of French and foreign media.

– The taste for work –

The taste for work, he inherited it from his father, a farmer in Haute-Saône who found himself alone raising three children after the sudden death of his wife in a tractor accident, six months after the fire in the family farm. Stéphane was 4 years old.

For nearly a year, the little boy will be hospitalized for anorexia nervosa. The absence of his mother will mark him for life.

After these tragedies, his father found a salaried job in the city of Besançon and the family moved into an apartment in the Montrapon district. In this working-class district, “there were all possible communities, at the time there was no racism, we all lived together in a beautiful atmosphere”, remembers the baker, a child always quick to climb onto the slopes. neighbor’s knees.

Schooled in a private Catholic institution, at the age of 15, he headed for an apprenticeship on the advice of his father: “you are going to enter a bakery, so you will not die of hunger”.

“He found me a great boss, a great man who taught me everything”, he confides, speaking fondly of this internship supervisor who “took out” his apprentices on Monday evenings at restaurants and discos.

Then comes the time for military service. Stéphane Ravacley leaves for long service in Africa, in Djibouti: “a city with many brothels”. Nicknamed “papi” by his comrades because he goes out little, he occupies his afternoons giving the bottle “to children born of too quick love” in an orphanage in the city. He then has a special affection for this handicapped girl with twisted limbs, who did not get out of her crib but “smiled all the time”.

– “Trauma” –

“My first trauma was to see all these abandoned children. The second was the discovery of the huge shanty town of Balbala and the very virulent epidemic (of cholera) which affected it”, forcing the soldiers to dig graves common to bury the dead, confides the craftsman, to whom life has not given birth, which he would have “adored”.

“At 20, even when you have lived through misfortunes, you are not ready to see that”, he continues, “it is what gave me a second social heart”.

After passing through Reunion Island, where he fell in love with a married woman – who has since died and whose now adult daughter he is adopting – he returned to Besançon, met his first wife and in 1998 opened La Hûche in Pain, this famous downtown bakery where he now works with seven employees.

“It is admirable what he did, it is a beautiful human gesture”, slips one of the sales assistants, Julie Paire, sharing the opinion of the hundreds of customers of the trade. “He reaches out easily, knows the customers and always offers a little something to the children,” adds the young woman.

Stéphane Ravacley is delighted to see his apprentice return to the bakehouse on Tuesday. He offered to the young man to follow him throughout his training and to hire him at the end, “if he wishes”. “Laye, I take him for what he is: he’s a deserving kid, who’s had it all, but he’s still an employee,” he said, refuting any filial attachment.

The pastry chef who had occupied the roundabouts with the “yellow vests”, “at the beginning”, wants “to continue the fight for the others”. He calls for “a more coherent migration policy”, while artisans are struggling so much to find apprentices in France.

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