Roma refugees from Ukraine found themselves in Moravia. And they found common ground there

They first sought refuge in Poland, but there was no work there. A group of twelve Roma refugees found themselves in the Moravian village of Němčice nad Hanou. Four sisters and their eight children fled the city of Kremenchuk in the Poltava region. In the Czech Republic, they are assisted by Kumar Vishwanathan, who has many years of experience in integrating the Roma minority.

The group is run by Naděžda, 48, the eldest of the sisters. According to Roma family laws, he is now responsible for the whole group. “Mr. Kumar helped us a lot. We told them that we really needed a job, that we had a very small four-month-old baby. They gave us food, clothes, and we agreed with them. very grateful,” explains Naděžda.

Her younger sister Nataša adds that in Poland, the situation of Ukrainian refugees is at the limit of capacity, especially with regard to their employment. That is why local volunteers reportedly diverted them to the Czech Republic.

They did not expect such immediate and enormous help at all. And the fact that Czech Roma contact them so quickly is a huge surprise for them. “Every morning they are on the phone, calling us what we need, what they can do for us,” says Nataša.

Communicating with this group of Roma refugees is not a problem for the employees of Ostrava’s Mutual Coexistence, a Roma aid organization founded by Kumar Vishwanathan.

They don’t need an interpreter. They speak Romani themselves without any problem. “We are full of Roma all over the world. We have the same laws of life and speech. We always understand and help each other. We are Ukrainian Roma in Ukraine, there are Czech Roma in the Republic Czech Republic, but the rules and laws apply the same way,” says Naděžda.

Her words are confirmed by Květa Horváthová, a social worker from the organization, who constantly speaks to Naděžda in Romani. “A Roma always gets to know a Roma, they always talk. I think the Ukrainian Roma are happy to have a Czech Roma here, that they can talk to him about their problems and their feelings,” describes Horváthová.

The family found their temporary workplace in a former savings bank building, which was provided by a local couple. However, this is only a temporary solution, so it is a matter of finding longer term accommodation. But because of that, they will probably have to part ways.

But everyone wants to stay together as usual. “We are a family, we have to stay together. I am the eldest and I am responsible for all. We beg you to succeed. Or at least to be close to each other, to be calm. We adults , we’ll go to work. But what about the children? We need to know that they can go to each other and check. That’s how it works for us,” says Naděžda.

Finding a job is essential for Naděžda and her sisters. These are all cookbooks that have worked differently around the world. Their domain is the preparation of large receptions, celebrations and similar events. But as they say, they won’t choose a job. They will be grateful for everything. They themselves were employed in Ukraine, one of his daughters is a university student in the humanities. The other two girls have finished high school. Today they also study, but online from Ukraine.

In 1997, they were also refugees. Water refugees.

Kumar Vishwanathan

Kumar Vishwanathan points out that society’s approach to refugees will change over time. The initial will and solidarity will begin to fade, and the critical view associated with granting the supposed benefits to this group may come to the fore. “Now is an opportunity for us to learn how to help, but also how to face the hate. As if something had happened to me, so that others treat me with respect as well,” says Vishwanathan.

Naděžda also speaks of respect, in connection with the war: “All that is useless. He invaded our country, man. He wanted to take us. I am a Roma woman who has lived in Ukraine for 48 years. I was born there, I was baptized there and no one ever said to me: you are a Roma woman! We are a peaceful nation, we love others.”

Like in a flood

In 1997, Vishwanathan started helping the Roma in Ostrava, who were deprived of everything by the flood. And just like twenty-five years ago, he still sees similar stories among Ukrainian refugees. “In 1997 they were also refugees. Water refugees. They only came with what they were wearing,” he says.

He reminds us that at that time there were similar worries about finding food, clothing or housing. And then came the problems. “People have written petitions, even Roma, even against them. I think we’re in the same situation, but it’s a different, huge group, which is not easy in the Czech Republic. Because d “on the one hand there is enormous helpfulness and willpower, but on the other hand, as it is said that the rich do not believe the hungry, we see the various allusions that these people have to deal with. I am so sorry”, adds Vishwanathan.

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