A year ago, on 24 February 2022, the Russian war against Ukraine erupted, spurring a wave of refugees bound for other countries, including the Czech Republic. Since the beginning of the crisis, Caritas of the Archdiocese of Prague has taken part in providing relief to people fleeing the warzone.
The catastrophic events of an unprecedented magnitude have placed large numbers of people into a dire humanitarian situation. „For Caritas, the past year has been one of the most difficult times in its history. Despite that, however, we have been able to organize extensive, comprehensive relief within a very short time,“ explains Jaroslav Němec, Director of Caritas of the Archdiocese of Prague.
„With no food left, we left the shelter to go shopping. While waiting in line at the cash register, the bombing began. We ran away without food, happy to be alive.“
Julie (44), mother of two young children
During the initial phase, relief efforts focused on securing basic needs – food, accommodation, healthcare, and medicines. Caritas of the Archdiocese of Prague provided food aid to more than 18,000 refugees and found shelter for over 3,000.
Helping children cope with traumatic events
Subsequently, Caritas offered psychological counseling and organized community and adaptation activities as well as Czech language courses. The objective was to help Ukrainians integrate into Czech society, facilitate children’s entry into the Czech education system, and assist adults with finding employment.
„The worst experience was seeing a missile fly next to our car.“
Recollection of Matvej (11) from fleeing Ukraine
Community centers and adaptation groups helped children come to terms with atrocities they had experienced. „The kids were drawing pictures of soldiers and tanks and building bomb shelters and hospitals from Lego. They were telling one another what their dads who stayed behind in Ukraine were doing,“ recounts pediatric psychologist Alexandra, who worked with Ukrainian children.
One of the first integration projects in Prague was the Sunflower Community Center opened by Caritas of the Archdiocese of Prague in partnership with the Borough of Prague 6. The facility is located in the Church of St. Vojtěch in Prague 6, a part of the Archbishop Seminary. In addition, five children’s groups and the St. Anežka Community Center were later established.
Eighty new workers and hundreds of volunteers
Caritas of the Archdiocese of Prague has been helping refugees and immigrants for more than 20 years. „The refugee crisis caused by the war in Ukraine has necessitated all of our organization’s resources to be put into action. In addition, we have had to hire 80 new specialists, including psychologists, social workers, teachers, interpreters, coordinators, office staff, doctors, and a priest. Moreover, an irreplaceable role has been played by hundreds of volunteers and thousands of generous donors,“ Němec enumerates. „All of the things we do for Ukrainians are done on top of our regular work. That is to say that the assistance we provide to Czech citizens in need has not been reduced, quite the contrary.“
„I want to extend my thanks to your organization for the extraordinary solidarity and generous help you provide to Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees. I am well aware of the hard work done by your staff in assisting Ukrainians who have fled the warzone for the sole purpose of saving their lives.“
Ukrainian Ambassador Jevhen Perebyjnis
Social and spiritual help continues
A year after the onset of the tragic events in Ukraine, Caritas has not relented in efforts to deliver relief. „We continue providing specialized social assistance to refugees who are one of the most vulnerable groups. Our facilities and apartments provide accommodation for as many as 300 people. In addition, we continue organizing adaptation groups,“ reports Němec.
The spiritual dimension is an integral part of Caritas‘ work. Every Sunday at 9:00 a.m., a Greek Catholic Ukrainian mass is celebrated in the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Cajetan.
have received one-time or long-term assistance.
have received food aid.
have been provided with accommodation.
have received expert social and legal counseling.
have received psychological help.
have received spiritual support.
have received assistance with finding employment.
have taken part in adaptation and integration activities.
„One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, And He will repay him for his good deed.“ (Proverbs 19:17)
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