The Czech Republic ranks third among the countries that have accepted the largest number of refugees from Ukraine. As of July 5, almost 388 thousand.
It's been a month since the Prague magistrate closed the registration center because the authorities had no way to resettle people in the city. Socportal 's editor Masha Grinevich went to a tent city in the Troy district of Prague, which was pitched in May and is scheduled to close in September.
Welcome to nowhere, - social worker Ridhi points to an inconspicuous yellow arrow on a blue background, - we are here.
Anyone who marked the path to the refugee camp in Prague with arrows previously developed quests of increased complexity and successfully continued to do this at a new job - only those who know where to go can find the way to the camp. Following the yellow arrows hidden in the roadside bushes, we go to the tent city - so far only the tops of the army tents are visible.
On Tuesday we are moving to a new place, - the social worker says, - it will be better there. They provide plumbing. Drinking water is delivered here by tanks, there is no sewerage.
How many people live here? - I ask, a little behind.
We have not decided how to introduce me - as a journalist or just a visitor.
The camp is designed for 150 people, now 60 people live. Half of them are children, - my guide exchanges a few phrases in Czech with the guards and they let us through. I don't know how she introduced me.
Police and ambulances are on duty at the entrance to the camp. My guide says that the police are not eager to work. When conflicts arose in the camp, social workers called the city police. The ambulance is always there too. Tuberculosis was recently discovered in the camp, and one family had to be isolated. The family was unhappy, but it was up to the doctors to decide who remained in isolation and who could be released.
We go further - straight to two huge flags - Ukrainian and Roma. Seeing my surprise, Ridhi explains:
85% of the refugees in the camp are Roma.
Where are they from, - I immediately ask, trying to figure out where the Roma live compactly in Ukraine and how they got to the Czech Republic.
From Transcarpathia, - my guide frowns, - they speak only Hungarian. In Ukrainian and Russian, I think they understand, but they speak reluctantly. At least adults. Children are happy to learn Ukrainian.
Is there no war in Transcarpathia? Ridhi asks me after a pause.
I shrug. There is no war in Transcarpathia, but no one knows when and where the enemy will strike next. There is no 100% safe place in Ukraine right now.
Many of them do not hide the fact that they came to Europe “taking advantage of the opportunity,” the social worker continues, without waiting for an answer, “each country has its own merits. Now they are in Prague, then they go to Budapest.
I am silent again. Over the past few months, I've heard stories about compatriots who used the war as a plausible excuse to "see Europe." Volunteers in all countries get angry when they talk about such people: because evil people exploit other people's kindness, those who need help do not receive it.
Okay, let's go, - Ridhi leads me to the camp itself.
I was not allowed to take pictures, so I looked around, trying to notice the details. Large army tents stand in a semicircle. They have beds on the ground. There are benches and tables under an awning on the trampled area in the center of the camp. Several people gathered there. They are learning Czech with an interpreter. This is a Ukrainian family, grandmother, mother, and son. They need to get an appointment with some official.
A little Roma girl runs up to us. She asks Ridha for scissors.
Making origami, he explains impatiently.
Well, - Ridhi nods to her and the three of us go for scissors, - but first, let me check your hair.
The girl is already dancing with impatience, but she allows it.
Lice, Ridhi explains to me, all the children have here. I remind them every day to wash their hair with a special shampoo, but it does not help.
Little Roma gets scissors and runs to the table - where they, together with a Ukrainian girl, watch a YouTube tutorial on how to make paper figures. There is no Internet in the camp. I don't know how they uploaded the video. Ridhi checks the second girl's hair - she also has lice. The children are not very worried about this, but Ridhi is nervous - she found a parasite in her hair yesterday. The girl has recently been forced to wash her hair with a special shampoo.
Come on, I'll show you the school, Ridhi calls me.
We leave the girls and go to a small tent that can fit three tables and several benches. A woman with a long, half-gray braid sweeps the concrete floor slabs. She agrees to speak only if I promise not to record her.
I've only been volunteering here for a few days, - the woman says, continuing to clean up, - I can't stand aside when this happens. I teach children mainly mathematics. Not all children understand Ukrainian, but here we speak the language of numbers and they really like it. Previously, they did not seem to have had normal access to studies. In general, this camp is very good, - she continues, leaning on a broom, - here people are fed three times a day, they have a place to wash. But the main thing is that bombs do not fall on them.
I thank her, and Ridhi and I slowly walk towards the exit from the camp.
Refugee payments and free travel have been cancelled, she says sadly. Ridhi really worries about his wards - Prague is crowded, like all major cities. Finding a job without knowing the language is very difficult. Most of those who live in the camp are ready to work only where they are paid immediately on the principle of "worked - received". But this is the Czech Republic, you can't do that here.
Do people still come here?, - I ask, catching my gaze on the boy on the balance bike, whom another child is trying to catch up with at a run. “He wants to take the bike from me!” - the boy shouts, bursting into the tent to the volunteers.
The second boy brakes sharply, turns around, and returns to the camp.
Yes, but not as much as before. The registration center is closed. All temporary housing is occupied, Ridhi replies.
She also looks after the children.
This camp will be closed in September, she adds after a pause.
And where are the people? I ask.
She silently shrugs and shakes her head.