An elderly woman with friends talks from a window in a building near the town hall in Rumburk. We ask him where to find a Ukrainian family in the house. He leads us quickly to the other side. He knows his new neighbors.
Julia, in her thirties, welcomes us to the apartment and introduces us to her sons Ivan and Artyom. “Do you want tea, coffee? ” he asks. They fled Ukraine a week after the fighting started. Their goal was clear from the start – Rumburk.
At the beginning of January, Julia’s husband Yuri came here. He obtained a short-term visa through the employment agency at the local Benteler branch. When the war started, the agency started looking for ways to help the people who worked here.
Yuri gets up after a while and comes from the next room, where he slept after the morning shift. He is smiling. He is happy to be with his family. “I wanted to go back to Ukraine, but my wife forbade me to do so,” he explains.
The Kharkov family quickly settled into the new environment. The children have already started going to school and in kindergarten, the eldest Artyom is learning Czech words. “She can teach us,” laughs Julia.
She started working as a housekeeper, her mother Viktorka also got a job. All thanks to the fact that they had an apartment from the very beginning, the husband had a job, and the locals helped them with everything.
The 2+1 apartment belongs to one of Benteler’s employees. When he found out what problems some of his colleagues had to face after the Russian aggression, he quickly provided it. “Petr is great, he helped us with everything. We don’t need anything now,” Yuri says.
The family is not yet thinking of returning to Ukraine. Julia talks about the fact that children should learn Czech well and integrate. She has the same plans. “I do housework now, but I would like to do a pharmacy. I did it in Ukraine too, but I need to learn the language. So I train, ”he says. He takes Czech lessons and watching YouTube.
Volunteers and associations saved the situation
There are other well-launched integrations in the Šluknov foothills – but there is a lot of work behind everyone, especially volunteers and nonprofits. They managed to catch the first wave of refugees in the northernmost part of the republic.
“We met on the Saturday after the war started. Each of our organizations has a portfolio of activities. Together we made it our mission to create a network in order to share the work. For someone to provide a housing, another for psychosocial help, another for children,” Evangelical pastor Richard F. Vlasák describes at Jiříkov Castle.
We have coffee with Monika Lampová from the Monday Agency and Gabriela Doušová from the Schrödinger Institute. That is, the heads of non-profit organizations who have appropriated refugee aid. The first is dedicated to services for people with disabilities, the second is a leisure centre.
“We had nothing to do, but we don’t have the heart, soul and conscience to let it float. It is natural for us to help people, to work on the ground,” notes Doušová.
They joined forces under the name Outcrop for Ukraine and began to solve the problems posed by the arrival of refugees. For example, when in the early days queues formed at the foreign police.
“We contacted her immediately, took people to our premises, where we set up an improvised help contact center,” says Doušová. When the rush for foreign police died down, the refugees were escorted there.
And they have expanded their help: wardrobe, social work, Czech lessons, housing… They have set up a system that wants each refugee to turn to someone if necessary. Every Ukrainian family has a “boss” who helps them to visit the office, the police or the doctors.
“We also connected with the people who are hosting to talk to them. Staying in touch. Caring for those who are helping. So they know they have someone to turn to when they have problems “says Pastor Vlasák.
They got involved partly because Rumburk, as a municipality with broad powers, and the state