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Viktor Kiyashko works as a manager in a large IT multinational, he has lived in the Czech Republic for twelve years. At the end of last week, however, hour by hour he began to help his compatriots in Ukraine, who began to flee before the war. He sits with everyone who comes to Prague 3 hostel, listens to their needs and tries to respond to everything they say.
“My first question is always – what do you need? By the time they arrive, everyone simply answers me: we want to go home, ”says Viktor. But when they sleep, take a shower, they only discover that what they really want.”It’s often as mundane as a clean T-shirt, because the lady only had what she was traveling in and nothing to change,” he adds.
According to him, however, it is important to know their exact and specific requirements. “That’s why we don’t even say exactly where the hostel is, because we don’t want people of good will to start carrying things that these people don’t really need,” Viktor points out. It helps Ukrainians to find their way around the city or gives them basic information on where and what they need to settle with the Aliens Police.
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“But we also do to take the mother and the kids for coffee, the kids to the playground, to calm down a bit and come up with other ideas for a while. That’s how they usually start saying what they need and what we can help them with,” adds volunteer Viktor, who in the meantime decides to manage even the most necessary phone calls for work.
He hears all the stories of the people who fled here before the war. “Some are really difficult. We have a mother who walked a few kilometers with her baby. Or those who a stranger at the border offered to take for a ride and in Prague said about six hundred dollars per person. They gave him gave all the money they had with them,” Viktor points out to those who use the chaotic and dramatic situation to their advantage. According to Viktor, however, this family was already taken care of and they continued in Germany.
You help us, ours help the East
Viktor introduces me to his colleague Valentina. He sits at the table with the hosted refugees and makes a list of things he needs to fix. Valentina also takes me to one of the bedrooms. There are three bunk beds, one with a teenage girl, opposite a boy of about eight. Mrs. Natalia is with them.
“We came here yesterday. We come from the suburbs of Ivano-Frankivsk, ”says Natalia. She hid with her two daughters, her husband and other relatives in the basement of her house for four days. The sirens of the western Ukrainian city almost always sounded. “We live near the airport, which the Russian army was the first to launch bombardments,” adds Natalia. He says that the old people of the village don’t respond to the sirens, so someone always had to run out and ring the church bells.
Natalia worked in a chicken coop, sorting eggs. His daughter studied in college, the other ran a canteen in kindergarten. According to her, the kindergarten has just become a help centre. “My sister is the director of the kindergarten, she has set up a shelter in the cellar for children who fled from eastern Ukraine, without parents. I tell you this so that you can see that you help us here, and our people in the west help those in the east,” he said.
I had to leave my husband at home
After a few dramatic days in which the men built barricades, made Molotov cocktails, and they all hid in the basement, Natalie’s family decided that some of them would flee west. “One of my daughters is pregnant, she didn’t want to leave because she was recently getting married, but my husband convinced her that she was already responsible for the unborn child and that she should be safe”, Natalia said in tears. The girl would not even receive medical care or medicine in Ukraine at the moment, as the pharmacies are sold out and the paramedics have a lot of work to do.
Natalie’s family assigned her to take the children and her pregnant daughter to the Czech Republic. “Our acquaintances called us to flee to take us here,” he continues. They left behind much of the family as well as Natalie’s husband, who suffered a stroke in November. “Each time the siren sounds, his hand knocks and he is sick. But he must not cross the borders, because there is a general mobilization and he does not yet have proof of his disability. He had to stay in home,” Natalie says with great difficulty between tears.
Their daughter’s husband took them to the border. At the border, they boarded buses driven by volunteers and crossed the border into Slovakia. Natalia was very nervous, because her daughters don’t have passports. One did not succeed and the other changed her name after marriage. “But the Slovak border guards just took their fingerprints and let us go,” Natalia breathed with relief.
They were already picked up at the Slovak border by acquaintances from the Czech Republic, who took them to Prague. “They didn’t even want to take a crown from us. We are very grateful to them and to you for accepting us,” Mrs. Natalia is already crying and ending our conversation.