Running twice before the war will cause trauma. Olana from Donetsk helps a community center for mothers with children iROZHLAS

The new community center called Sunflowers has received many visitors from Ukraine, especially mothers with children. Olana and her daughter, who fled from Zaporozhye to Prague, also used the center’s services. They fled Russian aggression for the second time, as they come from Donetsk, which has been controlled by separatists since 2014. At the same time, Prague is preparing a system for refugees by involving children in school. However, some parts of the city are reporting capacity issues.


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The community center in Slunečnice offers a recreation program mainly for mothers with children Source: Prague City Quarter 6

Slunečnice Community Center – this inscription in Czech and Ukrainian once again decorates the fence of St. Adalbert’s Church in Dejvice, Prague. The Ukrainian flag hangs next to it.

Caritas Czech Republic has opened a facility for refugees from Ukraine directly in the tabernacle near the National Technical Library. The center primarily serves mothers with children.

Although Olana arrived in the Czech Republic on Monday, she is from Donetsk and has been fleeing Russian aggression since 2014. The hardships of war have visibly affected her. From fatigue, he has dark circles under his eyes and an absent gaze. He speaks softly.

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“In June 2014, we had to go into hiding for the first time because bombs started falling on us. We lived there all year. In my house, all the windows deflated during the attacks, the tiles were falling and there was sand everywhere. It was really very dangerous”, he describes for Radiožurnál in Ukrainian.

In 2015, rockets began to hit the court, and the family decided to leave the territory of the self-proclaimed republics. They didn’t want to go to Russia, so they had no choice but to catch the smugglers. “We sold everything we had to pay for it. He took us to Artyomovsk at night.”

The family moved to Mariupol and then to Zaporizhia. “We lived there for a while. Then the man got sick. He had cancer and died of it in 2018,” Olana cries.

Escape abroad

But in tears, he continues his story and reaches the present. The war also caught up with them in Zaporozhye.

“A plane flew over the garden. I tripped, I got scared. The girl got scared, started crying and screaming. We thought they were going to bomb us. My child ran into the corridor, immediately lay down on the ground. It was terrible. The plane flew over us and began to bombard the Dnipro. ”

So they decided to run again. They spent many hours on the train, where they could not move. They waited ten hours at the Polish border. There, the volunteers fed them and Olana and her daughter got on a bus to Prague, where a lady with migration experience herself offered them asylum.

The center offers a leisure program for children from Monday to Thursday, always from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Source: Prague City District 6

Olan’s daughter colors a little further. “I’m not worried about myself, I’m worried about my daughter. My little girl is terribly scared of people in uniform, even the police. They’re scared of planes. She was scared when we were ventilating, she was scared of the broken glass. It’s marked for life”, describes the mother.

Rails in front of the altar

The community center is centered on parents and children. Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. offers a leisure program for children. There are Czech-Ukrainian fables and fairy tales on the piano. Coloring books or lego kits laid out on the tables.

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A little further on, three boys are playing football. A casual observer would have a hard time guessing that they had just escaped from a country at war and that rockets hit maternity wards and hospitals.

There are blankets and rugs under the altar. On them, a volunteer builds a wooden railway with a little girl. Meanwhile, other volunteers talk to the adults about what they need, what activities interest them or their children.

“We want to know what their interests are. If, for example, they want Czech language lessons or if they want to place children in school, in kindergarten, also how many children they have, the ages of the children. That’s why we make a list to record their needs,” says center coordinator and translator Nikol Bakoš.

“People have different needs. First of all, we want to map what kind of people will come and what their needs will be. Mothers with children will definitely come and will have to be referred to schools and preschools,” adds Pavel Šimek, deputy director of the Archdiocesan Charity Prague.

Few places in schools

At the same time, Prague 6 is preparing a system that would be used to register Ukrainian children so that they can gradually include them in their education. There are already more than 500 in the city district.

“We have to put them in schools and kindergartens. We know that we will not achieve this, because even before the war our schools and kindergartens were 95% full,” says Marie Kubíková, municipal councilor of Radio Kuburnal, of the ODS. The town hall is therefore also considering the construction of schools in containers and selects suitable land for this purpose.

The city district, like others, is also looking for Ukrainian and Czech teachers and preparing adaptation groups for children fleeing the war. These will be followed by Czech language lessons and full education.

The center is located in the St. Vojtech Church in Dejvice Source: Prague City Quarter 6

Prague 7 is also planning adaptation groups: “We want to open two groups right after the end of spring break at the beginning of next week, more will be added gradually. We will also open two adaptation groups for the youngest in kindergarten. These will be located in two non-residential areas of the city district,” Hana Šišková (Prague 7 Sobě) wrote to Radiožurnál, Prague 7 Councilor for Education and Training.

Currently, the city’s Seventh District cares for about 60 children, but the number is growing rapidly. According to Councilor Šišková, it is necessary to quickly adapt hygiene rules so that new classes can be created in schools and kindergartens.

“It is necessary to address the possibility of using other non-residential premises which have not yet been approved for school facilities. Without new school equipment capacities available quickly and in sufficient quantities, the situation will be unsustainable in foreseeable future,” added the city councilor.

Prague 1 has nearly 60 children in kindergartens and primary schools. Another 35 candidates are in the Ministry of Education, but there are only 25 positions.

Prague 10 is doing better: “In total, we can accommodate about 300 children of Ukrainian refugees, which is about 90 more than the processed, resolved and currently submitted applications,” said city hall spokesman Jan Harmník .

“Backpack Challenge”

At the same time, similar activities are emerging, such as the community center in Prague 6, elsewhere in the metropolis. For example, the Municipal Library branch on Korunní Street has prepared an informal meeting for Ukrainian mothers with children for Tuesday afternoon.

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“The idea was born when a lady appeared to us last week and told us that she had a Ukrainian mother with her, a young woman with a four-year-old daughter. And that they are very lonely, that they have no friends or contacts here,” librarian Berenika Haladová told Radiožurnál They prepared various books or a memory game for children.

One of the goals of the Prague 6 community center is also to overcome the isolation of incoming refugees. But they have prepared another bonus for children. Together with Caritas, they collect children’s briefcases and bags from people. In them, parents with children leave crayons, soft toys, water bottles and boxes for snacks.

“We picked up our backpacks for the first time this Saturday at the farmers markets. We picked up a hundred of these backpacks in six hours from the Charité stand. We will continue this hiking challenge,” says the doorman. -prague 6 spokesperson, Jiří Hannich.

Jaroslav Hroch

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