“I’m not worried about dad, he’s in an air raid shelter now.” Ukrainian children share their experiences in Prague with sport iROZHLAS

The Prague Children Foundation offers Ukrainian children who attend schools in the center of the capital at least a moment to forget about the war. At the same time, they can make new friends and share horrible experiences. The foundation was the first to provide free training for children of J. Guth-Jarkovsky elementary and high school. It also included beach volleyball training in Strahov, Prague.




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First graders were the first to hit the beach to play beach volleyball Photo: Jaroslav Hroch | Source: Czech Radio

Children start training with a short stretch. Coach Adam explains to them in English that they will learn to serve from below and that their hands should be stretched out. In no time, the balloons are flying in all directions.

“Training is completely different when you can’t explain everything. You can’t earn respect because you can’t yell at them. You don’t know how. But kids work really hard, they appreciate that,” explains coach Adam after the first two practices for the Ukrainian children.


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The first graders were the first to hit the sand to play beach volleyball. It helps Adam to know a little Russian. However, his colleague Lukáš does not understand his children. “The children knew nothing at all in English, so I relied on a pantomime”, he admits.

Seva and Sasha from kyiv are among the students having fun on the playground. He goes to high school in the center of Prague. Although they are both from the same district of the Ukrainian capital, they only knew each other through the Internet. They met in person in Prague. “It was a big surprise,” smiled Seva.

And they easily describe the last days in Ukraine, how they survived air raids on Russian planes and explosions of Russian missiles. “We lived in an air-raid shelter for eight days. Then we went to Lviv and then via Poland to Prague. We have friends here, Prague is beautiful, I’m fine here, but I miss my city” , he said.

“Dad is also on roadblocks”

Sasha says she wasn’t even surprised by the war. As a young girl, she saw protests against then-President Viktor Yanukovych, which he tried to suppress.

“We live near Maidan. In 2014, I saw fires and people dying. So the war was not a surprise for me.”

“My dad is a volunteer and helps our army deliver food,” Seva begins, and Sasha immediately follows: “It’s the same for me. Dad is also on the barricades. is not a problem. Dad tries not to talk about the war, because mom often cries and is afraid for her. We talk about the day I had and so on.

Sasha often laughs and speaks purposefully. But tears glisten in her eyes as she tells her father. I ask Seva if she’s scared: “I’m not worried about him. He’s in the air raid shelter now. He was in the army before the war. I think she’ll be fine.”

Difficult pronunciation

They are already taking classes in Prague and are gradually getting to know other students. They both agree that they are nice to them and speak good English, so it’s not a problem to communicate. “We also speak English with the teachers, sometimes Russian. Teaching is different in Czech, but for example the teaching of geography copies Ukrainian textbooks and translates geographical names for us,” adds Saša.


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“I wanted to go to school not necessarily to learn, but to talk to others. When I am in school, I don’t think about war and life is easier for me, “adds Seva. But the suspicion Sasha immediately relieves Sasha when she whispers that she’s still going to school just for her, and he laughs contagiously.

They also started teaching Czech at school. “Czech is not difficult to learn, but the pronunciation is difficult. Like the letter Ø,” it tries to imitate the correct pronunciation of Seva.

Sharing and relaxation

The trainings are organized by the Prague Children Foundation. They are usually free for Czech pupils in schools in Prague 1. However, its headmistress Dana Maršálková soon decided to offer them to children who had fled before the war. So that they can relax, meet up with friends and offer a space to share.

“As you walk away for a moment, you can see the children start talking about what each of them has been through, where they were in the shelter, where they spent five days at the border, etc. These terrible experiences suddenly fall to them because they feel they’ve found someone who has similar experiences. We didn’t even expect it to affect them so much,” he says.


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She noticed the effects of the war, especially on young children, who she said were restless. “For the little kids it was definitely relaxing. It was obvious that when they arrived on the sports fields, they suddenly changed. They started running, jumping and communicating with each other. »

One of the experiences with the younger children was also that they were afraid. They organized a magic show for Ukrainian children. “We normally prepare it for Czech kindergartens. We were surprised that Ukrainian children react completely differently to classic towers when something jumps out at you. They react quite unusual. Children usually jump, but two of the Ukrainian children ran backwards, completely scared. It was clear to them that they probably had a very negative experience behind them.”

Training for refugees

In the future, the foundation wants to include Ukrainian children in training together with Czech children. They would not only play beach volleyball, but also squash, tennis or swimming.

With the help of Prague, sports clubs also joined, which prepared training offers for Ukrainians. “Above all, we try to make sure that the children adapt here and forget about the extreme situation that is currently prevailing in their country and is affecting their mental state negatively. In cooperation with the clubs and sports associations in Prague, we want to use this activity to provide Ukrainian children with the opportunity to relax through their favorite sport,” said Vít Šimral from the Prague Pirate Party. An overview of all offers can be found on the portal www.prahasportovni.eu.

More than 150,000 children have already found safe refuge from the war in Ukraine in the Czech Republic. According to statistics from the Ministry of the Interior. According to the United Nations children’s fund UNICEF, more than one and a half million children have fled Ukraine.

Jaroslav Hroch

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