On the 24th of February of 2022, Russia further invaded Ukrainian territory, an escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian War instigated in 2014. The conflict initially arose as a part of the Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity and was primarily targeted at the status and control of the Crimea and Donbas territories. The invasion in February of this year has caused one of Europe’s most severe and largest refugee crises since World War II. The fleeing of young children and women from their homeland has caused the displacement of nearly a third of the country’s population. To date, it is estimated that over 8.4 million Ukrainians have crossed the border into Poland, Moldova, Hungary or Slovakia. In the meantime, the Czech Republic and other neighboring countries have opened their homes to our new guests fleeing the war. In the Czech Republic specifically, all Ukrainians are eligible to receive permits to work in the country, register for health care, and enroll their children in Czech schools. In my home city, Prague, with a pre-war population of 1.25m it is estimated that there are currently 300k Ukrainian refugees.
This crisis hits close to home for many Central Europeans whose families and relatives similarly experienced years of Soviet domination. For many, until 1989, this meant the denial of the freedom and democracy that Ukrainians are fighting for today. Czechoslovakia was also “liberated” by the Warsaw Pact countries in 1968, and many of that generation still recall the tanks rolling into Prague in August of that year. We can presume that the impact of this crisis will be long-lasting and that as a result millions of civilians will need assistance in rebuilding their lives.
This grant has allowed me to take a volunteer job one in which I am able to donate both my time and the funds I have received. I volunteered this summer for an organization that provides aid and assistance to refugees in the Czech Republic, OPU (Organization for Aid to Refugees). Over 300.000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in the Czech Republic since the war began in February, and my grant has allowed me to work to support the work of OPU in the Czech Republic to aid and assist newly arrived Ukrainians, particularly children.
-Natalia Sanders ’24