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June 26, 2022

 

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Destitute, homeless Romani refugees from Ukraine in Czech Republic's second-largest city dependent on volunteers, visit by city official and police prompts fears that children and mothers will be separated

9.6.2022 6:46
Renata, a refugee from Berehov, Ukraine, and her children who have no choice but to sleep on the ground in Brno, Czech Republic - 8 June 2022. (PHOTO:  Klára Kubíčková)
Renata, a refugee from Berehov, Ukraine, and her children who have no choice but to sleep on the ground in Brno, Czech Republic - 8 June 2022. (PHOTO: Klára Kubíčková)

In Brno, Czech Republic, children and their mothers of Romani origin who have fled Ukraine are in a critical situation described by many as a humanitarian disaster. Brno city officials who engineered the relocation of the children and women from the railway station onto a fenced plot of land between Benešova Street and Koliště Street near the Grand Hotel are claiming that everything is fine and that a social worker regularly visits the refugees.

The opposite is being reported from volunteers at the scene, however. Yesterday the arrival of a city employee accompanied by police reportedly caused the younger children there to begin crying and scared the refugee women as well. 

Klára Kubíčková, one of the aid volunteers, has posted to the Facebook social network about the situation. Her direct testimony from the scene is being published here by news server Romea.cz in full translation.

At the Grand 

We need mainly mats, sleeping bags and strollers. We also need diapers, tampons and washcloths. 

We need clothing for the women (leggings, sandals, skirts and T-shirts) and for the children (mainly boots, leggings, pants, shoes, sweatshirts and t-shirts). Please bring all donations to IQ Roma servis or to the base at the Ocásek Nature Reserve. 

Please just bring food that can be eaten immediately. We need apples, bananas, bread rolls, cheeses, crackers for children (please do not bring sausages in this heat). 

I brought five kilos of apples and three kilos of bananas and they disappeared in three minutes. The food is distributed at a table in front of the first tent. 

The children eat first, then the pregnant women, then the rest of the women. I saw no garbage being thrown away there that included uneaten food, but I did see a woman clutching a bag with a half-eaten apple and a bread roll in it. 

The third tent is receiving the least stuff, because whoever brings anything there usually gives it to the people at the front. Anybody who is breastfeeding or sleeping in that last, third tent is unlucky. 

Nobody is fighting over anything, but each adult cares for her own children, mainly. This photo is of a woman named Renata, from Berehov, Ukraine. 

Renata has eight children, but she had to leave her two oldest ones in Ukraine because they have no personal identification. Her other six children are with her here now. 

Her Veronika is the same age as my Ronya, and I gave her a stuffed toy that I had hastily thrown into my backpack. Veronika gave me a hug and compared to Ronya, she is light as a feather. 

When Renata went to the local authority to handle their paperwork, somebody else took their places in the tent, so last night she slept with the children on the ground under the table to stay out of the rain. She has a simcard but no mobile phone, so if you have a device you would like to give her, let me know. 

She also has her own mother here and another two children (or grandchildren from another side of the family, my Russian was not good enough to understand her), so the family has 12 members and they are afraid of being separated. The entire family fits under that table. 

They hid the stuffed toys I gave them there and they play with them. I saw Veronika carefully remove her dirty Crocs before going under the table so as not to trample on anybody. 

People from the Ocásek Nature Reserve brought some pallets so the children don't have to sit on the ground. There are cars all around, so the children still need to be watched so they don't run into the road. 

At 12:30 two girls came from Caritas, but on their own initiative, as individuals, it wasn't in their job description - they couldn't stand it and they brought the refugees some clothes, diapers and tampons. At 13:00 a lady came from the municipality with an interpreter and four police officers.

The Romani women began to worry that they were there to take their children away. The children started crying. 

Up until then, everybody had been calm. We volunteers were not allowed to negotiate anything with the clerk, so we stood nearby, and the women came to ask us whether their children would be taken away ...

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Brno, Discrimination, Racism, refugee



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