It was New Year’s Eve and student Pauline Kovalenko was rushing to pay in some cheques and cash at her local bank before the celebrations began.
It was out of hours and she had forgotten her carte bleue so could not bank the loose money at Crédit Agricole in Le Tholonet near Aix-en-Provence.
Never mind, she thought, she would just bank the cheques. Absentmindedly, she put the envelope with her €350 in cash to the side.
It was not until January 2, as her TGV was on its way to Paris that Pauline, 27, remembered the envelope.
“I looked in my bag where I thought it was, and it wasn’t there. I couldn’t believe it – it was just one of those awful realisations. I went into a cold sweat. I assumed it must have dropped it and resigned myself.”
Back in Paris, she took restaurant shifts seven days a week to cover the rent the cash was meant to pay, and cursed herself for losing it.
Meanwhile, at 08:30 on New Year’s Day, local handyman Alain Baschenis was withdrawing cash when he saw the white envelope. It was open and he took a look inside.
Apart from the cash there was nothing to reveal the identity of its owner except a card to ‘Paulinette’ signed by uncle Kiki, Jean, Vincent and aunt Suzi.
‘Dozens of people contacted me to reclaim the money’
Alain, 60, contacted the local paper who ran an article giving his phone number but not the amount of cash nor the details inscribed on the card.
“Dozens of people contacted me to claim the money, but they could not tell me the amount nor the name Paulinette,” said Alain, who also does charity work with the local church in his village, Châteauneuf-le-Rouge. “The story got wider and wider circulation and word got back to Pauline in Paris a few days later.”
Pauline, who is at the prestigious acting school of Le Foyer in Paris, and is also studying to write screenplays, said: “I couldn’t believe it when I heard the money had been found. I phoned the number and was able to satisfy Alain that it was mine. It was just so lovely and it restored my faith in humanity.
“The money was to pay my rent for January. At theatre school they recently asked us to write a scenario with an upbeat message. This little morality tale fits the bill perfectly, and Alain will be the star.”
The Good Samaritan of Provence told The Connexion: "She was crying, she told me how down she was. For her, it was a large sum and was totally lost. I also received lots of calls from people thanking me for my honesty. I was very touched.
“They called from Lille, Dijon and Montpellier to say they didn’t think that people like me still existed. One man even thanked me on behalf of the whole of Africa. I think there are more honest people in the world than dishonest.”
Cart horses collect Christmas trees and ‘bring joy’ across France