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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 look like?


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.


When you bring a Christmas package to such conditions, what does it mean for the kids there?


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 to live.”


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.


What those boys do?

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!


When you 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.


During that 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

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