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Czech tornado has left many homeless, including Romani widow with six children

4.7.2021 5:17
In Hrušky, Czech Republic, Jarmila Poláková's tornado-destroyed house is slated for demolition. (PHOTO:  Personal archive of Jarmila Poláková)
In Hrušky, Czech Republic, Jarmila Poláková's tornado-destroyed house is slated for demolition. (PHOTO: Personal archive of Jarmila Poláková)

A week ago a destructive tornado swept through the South Moravian village of Hrušky, Czech Republic. Local residents there are coming to terms with the horrible havoc that was wreaked and with their own feelings of powerlessness.

Building inspectors have been scheduling the now unsafe homes for demolitions that have been gradually underway. One such case is that of Jarmila Poláková, a 38-year-old Romani woman who lost the roof over her head and that of her six children in an instant.  

"The evening news had just begun on tv when the hailstorm started. The wind picked up and it was clear to us that this was not an ordinary thunderstorm," Poláková told news server Romea.cz. 

"The bicycles we had parked in the garden in front of our house flew into the air and began spinning around. The same happened to the bricks and outdoor tiling that our neighbor had in his garden. Then it all started flying up. The tornado first blew out all the windows in the house, then took our roof and tore down part of the perimeter wall of the house as if it were made entirely of dominoes and not brick," she described the natural disaster that has also affected the municipalities of Lužice, Mikulčice and Moravská Nová Ves.  

Those who are interested in helping Ms Poláková recover from the storm can contact Alena Gronzíková of the IQ Roma servis NGO at alena.gronzikova@iqrs.cz. Ms Poláková and her husband had saved up the money to build the house that is now no more during their time spent in England.     

Ms Poláková's husband, who died of cancer two years ago at the age of 36, had worked in Great Britain on construction sites. Ms Poláková herself had been working there as a cleaning woman.

Buying their own house in their native town of Hrušky was the fulfillment of their common dream. They found a fixer-upper and it never occurred to them that they could lose it all one day. 

"The children first lost their Dad and now even the roof over our heads. The house has been demolished and we have only what was on us when we fled. We couldn't bring anything with us and the building inspector would not allow us to go back into the ruins because it would have been too risky. All of our memories have remained in the house," Ms Poláková lamented to Romea.cz - but despite the adversity that fate has visited upon her, she is still staying afloat somehow.

"I'm on my own with six children between the ages of four and 14, and it hasn't been easy for us since my husband died. Now we're losing our home," she told Romea.cz, admitting that the tornado has been a traumatizing experience for her children.

"Ever since, the children are now afraid of the slightest amount of rain or of any wind that is stronger than usual. We have to cope and overcome our fear, though. The main thing is that none of us were physically harmed," Ms Poláková said, adding that she is currently living with her mother in Břeclav in a studio apartment and has no idea whether she will be able to build a new house for her children all over again.  

Ms Poláková does not have the financial resources necessary to rebuild at this time. Last week's natural disaster, unlike anything that has ever happened in the Czech Republic before, has sparked a wave of solidarity from society as a whole.

So far one billion Czech crowns (EUR 39 million) has been raised for the municipalities afflicted by the tornado and people are continuing to help. The largest amount of money has apparently been donated to the Brno branch of Caritas, which has received CZK 247 million.

The collection undertaken by the Nadace Via foundation exceeded CZK 200 million as of the morning of 2 July. More than CZK 100 million has been collected by the People in Need organization, which shows CZK 136.5 million in its transparent account as of 2 July.

The Czech Red Cross has also collected almost CZK 100 million. All data is from the organizations' websites.

Rena Horvátová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Neštěstí, pomoc, rekonstrukce, Romani people



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