The children had only a bag tied with a rope, tells Radim Bzura about the accommodation of Ukrainians

You first offered your chalet to a Ukrainian family, who have already moved and become independent. Did you then accept other Ukrainians?
The house is big, so I donated it again to the regional charity Teplice. A family from Zhytomyr moved in through us. Grandmother, grandfather, two daughters and a two-year-old granddaughter. They arrived on a charity train and weren’t sure whether they were in Poland or the Czech Republic. We had to show them where they were on the map. Two days after he arrived, the master asked me if I could get him work boots and clothes. At 68, he got a part-time job. He began to work – to scrape the walls.

The estuary prevailed, it is cleaner than Kharkov. The young refugee wants to graduate here

So he immediately got to work. Did they come with no money at all?
No, they have money. But in their Ukrainian banks and cards with us are not accepted. They don’t withdraw from an ATM, they can’t pay by card. If we didn’t buy them food, they wouldn’t have anything. They are well educated people. The mason who was the first to be with his wife and child and who has already become independent speaks French, German and English. He graduated from college, but he works in construction here.

But some Ukrainians have experience here.
The stories are different. Of course, there are people who come by car and have dollars or euros. They have relatives, acquaintances or family here. However, those who arrived “blind” are finding it very difficult to receive free food and help from us. It humiliates them. They’ve worked all their lives, they don’t want to feed on us. They are looking for ways to earn extra money.

And do they have the opportunity to earn extra money in the vicinity of Ústí nad Labem?
In my area, yes. For example, my grandparents who stay with me already do small jobs. For example, they plant trees with friends, not that they need to plant them. (smiling) But they give Ukrainians the opportunity to earn extra money.

You said you hosted a family from the Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr. Does he say how they fled the war-torn country?
Yes, he said. This family was without electricity and heating in their apartment because they bombed the power plant. And when the bomb flew into the next block of flats, they grabbed their passports and what they were carrying. They have nothing. The little girl is still crying. He recounts the horrors they saw while crossing the border. They saw dead people lying on the ground. No one cleans them there or throws them in mass graves.

Radim Bzura's entire family joined in the helpRadim Bzura’s entire family joined in the helpSource: Radim Bzura archives

And how are you and your family helping each other?
I think it’s a good experience for our children too. That they don’t just see the conflict on TV, but meet real people with real stories. And they are also involved in helping. A community of helping people is established in Ústí nad Labem. They stay either at home or in lodges and chalets. When Ukrainians sleep on the floor in sleeping bags in gymnasiums, where they breastfeed mothers and cry children, they, of course, are grateful for the possibility of any accommodation. Even for a fortnight. Often they just need to relax, wash up and get their bearings.

Besides accommodation, do you help arriving Ukrainian families in any other way?
We took mothers and children to the zoo or went on trips together. Not everyone has vacant real estate or can bring someone home. But even a little help is enough. To go help as a volunteer to help call centers or bring ten pizzas there. Or suggest a transfer to the doctor. That’s help too. Anyone can get involved.

Kindergarten.  Illustrative photo.

How to blow a nursery? Ukrainian children head to already crowded classrooms

But sometimes there is some discomfort associated with using it. Help is not free.
Yes, we don’t have refugees staying directly with us, but there are still expenses. We have to pay for electricity and housing expenses, but that’s not something we can’t do. I wanted to buy a motorcycle, but now it makes more sense to use the money differently. Thanks to state aid, it will probably end in the dark. The motivation to help people in need is simply greater. But like I said, even a little help is always help. Each according to his abilities.

Many Ukrainians have the Czech Republic as a stopover. Have you met anyone who has continued?
Yes. For example, the charity Teplice called me to temporarily house my mother, my grandmother and my four children. They refused refugee status because they want to continue to Germany and have nowhere to sleep. They would sleep differently on the street. So I took the car and put it up with friends for two days. They fed them, took them to Dresden and bought them tickets so they could continue. The children only had a trash bag tied with a string and then the things they were carrying.

In addition to material aid, you also donated money. What do you think is most important now?
We Czechs have raised an incredible amount to help Ukraine. But there is another side to help. Trivia that will do a lot. Give them clothes, toys, buy them groceries or they have to be taken to a doctor. These are actions that most of us can do and are very important. It is natural to help each other.

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