Olena takes care of fugitive compatriots: I am always amazed to see how the inhabitants of Olomouc help

The number of refugee rooms in the area is dwindling, and soon there will be gymnasiums and cultures

Was it difficult to learn Czech?
The language barrier was then the worst of all for me. In addition I tried to make an appointment as soon as possible. Every day I wrote down ten to twenty new words and tried to learn them. I was ashamed to speak Czech because I knew I was making mistakes. Even then, I admired the locals for helping me integrate into society. From the first day of work I met a lady who was happy to help me every step of the way, we are still friends. She helped me talk to others, find accommodation, she taught me Czech and she was always with me and held my hand. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to stay here permanently. I gradually learned the language and in 2008 I created a company. Very often, I change fields and try to adapt to the passage of time. I’m still working on myself and learning something new all the time.

Now that your job is gone, you devote all your time to refugees. Are you more numerous?
Perhaps all Ukrainians who have lived in Olomouc for a long time are now helping our compatriots as much as possible. We pay for everything necessary. We go to the border for the refugees, help them process the documents and provide them with accommodation. We find out what they need and try to get it and get it to them as soon as possible. I feel like I have to do it now because Ukraine is my home country. I believe that if I help foreigners here, someone will help my relatives in Mariupol. I have no news from my family, but I believe that everyone is fine. I am convinced that if you give something to someone, it will come back to you in a good way. I’m helping someone here now, and I’m 100% sure someone else in Ukraine is helping my family at the same time.

With her daughter, her sister and her little nephew, Marina Gotovkina found asylum in the Olomouc Tõde boarding house.

Kyjevanka Marina with her daughter: the inhabitants of Olomouc welcomed us with open hearts

What would you say to local Ukrainians?
They are helpful and cordial people who will always open the door for you, feed a stranger and take care of them with everything. It is a hard-working nation, we are still used to “makat”, many Ukrainians have a university degree. Life in Ukraine is difficult and salaries are low. People there know very well that they have to work a lot to have money. They must continue to learn new things, change jobs often and adapt to current circumstances. This makes them very adaptable. Women are great housewives. They still have them cleaned at home, welded and created the famous “hearth heat” for their family. People there are not used to going to restaurants as often as in the Czech Republic.

What do you say about the attitude of the inhabitants of Olomouc towards the refugees?
Already at the border, I cried with emotion when I saw how warmly the Polish and Czech volunteers welcomed the refugees from Ukraine. They hugged them, held their hands, and immediately offered them a blanket, food, drink, accommodation, and transportation. I must admit that I am amazed every day to see the inhabitants of Olomouc willingly and free of charge. They make their apartment or room available free of charge and provide the refugees with all the equipment, clothing, food and even buy high chairs and a table for the children to play in. Others offer laundry facilities or guest house accommodation. It’s phenomenal what people are doing here for refugees, and I’m very impressed. When I took the first refugees to the pension in Olomouc, a lady with lots of things and equipment was already waiting for them. They had even prepared toothbrushes, shampoos and body creams… They all have my admiration and my great gratitude for all they do for people fleeing war.

Blue-yellow solidarity with Ukraine in Olomouc

Olomouc was flooded with blue-yellow solidarity. Even so, people are showing their support

How do Ukrainian refugees react to the Czech Republic? Do they want to stay permanently?
Locals certainly don’t have to worry that a lot of Ukrainians come here and don’t want to go home. They are used to working a lot and although many of them have not even processed the documents yet, they are already looking for work and opportunities to be beneficial here. They don’t want to supposedly “sit on their ass” and wait with an outstretched hand for social benefits. They are very grateful for how they are received by the locals here and they appreciate any help. Certainly, someone will stay here permanently and seek asylum, but it will certainly not be the majority of those who come here. In recent days, there are more and more refugees who come with only a plastic bag, because they did not even have time to pack their bags and at the same time lost their apartment or their house. Mainly women with children come here, sometimes accompanied by grandmothers. But the vast majority of them want to return home after the war.

If you would like to help refugees from Ukraine in any way, you can contact Olena Janssens via email lenickajanssens@gmail.com or FB Olomouc helps Ukraine

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