How is the
Ukrainians living right now?
Prices have risen in Ukraine, energy, rents,
food have risen, but salaries and pensions have remained very low.
Paradoxically, more people are now at risk of poverty. One of the main reasons
why this is the case is the war in the east of Ukraine, which drains a
substantial part of the money for the development of the country and for people
to live better. They are trying to keep the army in a state to face Russia’s
aggression. Then there is corruption and alcoholism, these problems persist.
Alcohol is cheap, and people who cope with a difficult situation can easily reach
for a bottle… In addition, corruption, we have been dealing with all the time we
have been helping in Ukraine. Under Yanukovych, corruption has become an
official method of governance and governance. Today, efforts to suppress these
abuses are reform by the police, laws, self-government, and government. There
are so many changes going on and it is difficult for an ordinary person to get
a quick look at it. All past regimes, beginning with the Tsarist, there was
always someone “powerful and wise” who solved and decided everything
for the people. They were not used to making decisions and being responsible
for themselves. It is a long-haul run, we eventually solve similar problems in
our country, but here is a completely different situation.
You handed out gifts in not
only Charities and children’s homes, but you also brought them to children who
were ill and could not come. Therefore, you got to them right home. How did it
When you drive down the road through towns, you
may think: it is almost the same as in our country, there are only worse roads.
This is a semblance. There is a big difference in the standard of living of
people in town and village. There are more opportunities in cities; there is a
little more money. In villages, the advantage is that everyone has a little bit
of something to survive. But! With us in the Czech Republic, we no longer
perceive the fact that we let the tap water, that we have a washing machine,
TV, sockets, and internet all over the apartment… In Ukraine, you will come to
a living room, which is often a kitchen, bedroom, living room and bathroom at
the same time. In the village, the living rooms are connect to the sheds via
the corridor. Alternatively, there is a well with a winch beside the house, but
there is no water supply inside. One woman heated the room so that she had one
stove hot. It was the only possible source of heating. When it is cooked, it is
warm, but gas is expensive, so it is a problem. On the other hand, I saw an
iron pipe drilled on a rusty saucepan and gas burned from it. In the middle of
the room on the floor. There may be an explosion and these things happen there.
Many people in Ukraine live in very poor conditions, as our generation,
especially the younger ones, cannot imagine.
However, there are many rich people. Ukraine is a
country of contrasts. Unfortunately, there is no middle class, on which the
economy of every Western country stands.
bring a Christmas package to such conditions, what does it mean for the kids
That is different. We deliver packages to poor families, often multiple, or
parents are disabled or ill and have no money. How many times it is a great
misery. Children of these families have no emotional misery; they have a mother
and a dad, or at least one who loves them. In these cases, the gifts means
above all material help. The joy that children have from new things that they
could not get at home, or rarely, is a Christmas bonus. I talked to their
parents, grandparents and they said. “Yes, thanks to the kids getting
their clothes and shoes, we will stay for rent, gas, food – for what is needed
Then there are children in orphanages, which do
not primarily have such a material need, but even if the staff tries to do
their best for them, they are not mom and dad. Right now, we were debating with
the boys from home in Bortnyki and those sixteen and older asked us what the
motivation of people to buy and send presents, why do they do that? So I
explained to them that they are often people who have deep pockets themselves
(I know specific ones), but they still forgive themselves to help others, make
fun… They do it out of the goodness of the heart, for the love of people, some
of the love of the Lord God. Although they do not meet children, they want to
express their responsibility for the fate of man, wherever he may be. It sounds
like a cliché, but it is. It is a personal gift of a particular family to a
particular person we arrange directly.
They know from me that donors are asking how they are, whether they know if
they are studying well, and how donated things helped them. Boys say that once
they make money and have their money, they will help someone who needs it. That
the help, the good deed they go on. That is fantastic!
talk to them, what does it give you personally?
I do not take these meetings as a job. For many times I cannot avoid
emotions. So sometimes, it is difficult for me as well… When I think of an
eleven-year-old boy from Lopatyna, who could not go to school in big frosts
because he did not have warm shoes. Then when he was in school, he was
nauseated several times. They were bad at it. At home, he cared for a sick
mother, a small farm, and a garden and he had the best marks. He wanted warm
clothes and shoes most. In addition, they really got in the deck. When he
unpacked it, he was very happy. I stood in front of him, feeling tiny before
him, respectful of him. Over the years, I have seen these children grow up,
some are already adults and with families, many are successful in the studio,
others are already working. I am delighted that we have contributed a little to
Charity. It makes sense. Likewise, many years of cooperation with our Ukrainian
partners – over the years we have given them material help, finance, expertise,
motivation, advice to avoid repeating the mistakes we made with us.
time you have seen things, heard many stories, can you still be surprised?
Always. In addition, these are the specific situations of those people. You
sit with them and experience almost hopelessness. For example, we were with a woman
who works in Poland in home care and has a 14-year-old daughter with brain
atrophy, so she will get worse. They see each other only four times a year for
a single week. A grandfather cares for a girl who gets older…
It sounds almost
ridiculous; the woman cares for strangers in another state and cannot be with
her own sick daughter…
Yes, she said to us: “You will not pay the gas,
they will cut you off. You will not pay the rent. They will move you out. What
can I do if I cannot get a job in Ukraine? ”I understand it and at the same
time I feel it is wrong to be with her daughter. The health system in Ukraine
is backward, there is not a lot of services that we have in the Czech Republic
today. We often do not appreciate it. This is why it makes sense not only to
help them in Ukraine, to create opportunities for them at home, so that they do
not have to go beyond earnings.
You meet children, adults,
old people… How do you feel about Ukraine, the people there?
I love them. Sometimes they are more open than we are. They are hospitable and, above all, despite all the horrors they probably have more national pride. Someone tore them to pieces, Russians, Cossacks, Tatars, Poles, Hungarians, Germans … Someone has always touted or looted with Ukraine. About eight million people have died there for Stalin, under artificially created famine. Ukrainians are more attach to their values and traditions than we are. They normally dress in shirts embroidered with Ukrainian design, and go to show that they are Ukrainians and are proud of it. They are not ashamed of their traditions and customs; they are more attach to traditional Christian values. I am afraid that in the future consumerism and lifestyle thinking will not take away from them, as we have been largely. Despite all the problems, a country can enrich us in many ways. I wish that the situation would improve there and be free. I wish them that heart.
MgA. Karolína Opatřilová, Archidiocese of Olomouc