Overwhelmed by Ukrainian refugees, the Czech Republic does not want to hear about European “quotas”

Ukrainian refugees are welcomed by the Vesna association at the foot of an art gallery to receive basic necessities.  Brno, Czech Republic, March 19, 2022

Their little red eyes betray fatigue and sadness. At the Brno Exhibition Centre, Tatiana Hrytkovian and the seven members of her family are exhausted. Arrived the same morning from Kryvyi Rih, a city in central Ukraine, they landed this Saturday, March 19 in the second largest city in the Czech Republic “a bit by chance”, says the refugee. Open 24 hours a day, the gigantic hall transformed into a reception center for Ukrainian refugees will however offer them impressive help in peace.

Within minutes, the Hrytskovian family receives a temporary visa that allows them to stay in the Czech Republic for a year, a health insurance card and even accommodation. A volunteer offers to take them home, “but it’s a bit scary to leave with a single man”, Tatiana fears. No problem, “We’re going to put you in a holiday centre, two rooms for four people, are you okay with that?” » In addition to enjoying free accommodation, the family will be able to receive 5,000 crowns (200 euros) monthly allowance per person.

A spectacular welcome

Like the Hrytskovians, more than 200,000 Ukrainians have already received a residence permit in three weeks in this Central European country of barely 10.7 million inhabitants. Improvised in urgency and emotion, the Czech welcome, even if it remains less important than in Poland, is spectacular, especially for a country which has never experienced such a population movement since the Second World War. . “We were already used to living with Ukrainians”, explains Jan Grolich, president (Christian democrat) of the region of South Moravia, who is in charge of organizing this reception. Ukrainians were already the second largest foreign community after the Slovaks before the war, and “it is said that every house in Moravia has been renovated by at least one Ukrainian”jokes this 37-year-old elected official who walks around with a yellow and blue T-shirt proclaiming “Support Ukraine”.

Her main task is to find a bed for everyone. At the start of the conflict, the Czech Republic was able to count on the solidarity of the Ukrainian diaspora, volunteers and hoteliers. But as the conflict drags on and thousands of refugees still arrive every day with less and less money and connections, there are fewer volunteer hoteliers, especially for barely 180 crowns (7.20 euros) per night and per person of compensation by the State. Mr. Grolich has just returned from a trip to Berlin where he went to seek lessons from the 2015 refugee crisis. He came back with one conviction: “We will have to build prefabricated villages. »

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