Czech Catholic Charity helps ease the plight of people in war-torn Chechnya


The Czech Republic is playing an active role in helping to ease the plight of people in war-torn Chechnya, which in recent years has experienced two wars when fighting for independence from Russia. One of the Czech organizations operating in the region is the Czech Catholic Charity. Catholic Bishop Vaclav Maly and the head of the charity, Jaroslav Kopriva spent a week in the region earlier this month to see the Czech humanitarian aid working. Alena Skodova reports:

The two men visited not only Chechnya, but also the neighbouring Ingusetia where Chechen people live in refugee camps, and Northern Ossetia, which was struck by heavy floods three weeks ago. Catholic Bishop Vaclav Maly explained to me that he went to this Moslem region mainly to express his church's support to the sorely tried nation:

"As a Catholic bishop I would like to show solidarity with the Chechen nation because this nation lives in isolation. I would like to show it is my interest, it is the interest of our Catholic church to take care of people who are forgotten and simultaneously to touch the problems which it is necessary to solve. I did not come as an advisor but I wanted to experience this disastrous situation of the Chechen nation. And in my opinion it was very, very important to me to acknowledge it and to speak with concrete people, not to be informed only from magazines, newspapers or TV but to be in concrete daily touch with ordinary people who must solve their daily problems."

Jaroslav Kopriva heads the Czech Catholic Charity, which - together with another Czech organization, the People In Need Foundation - provides aid to Chechnya as part of an international relief programme:

"We represent Charitas Internationalis and our work is mainly concentrated on children. We are running three children centres directly in the city of Grozny, each has a capacity of 50 children and we support by foot another one with the capacity of 100 children. At the same time we are running two camps in Ingusetia, both with capacity of 100 children. And we also support the Charitas Vladikavkaz, that is a charity located in Northern Ossetia. Our office is located in Nazranj, the capital of Ingusetia."

Mr. Kopriva travels to Chechnya frequently and he confirmed that the country had not come back to normal yet, saying the war left its most visible traces in the capital of Grozny:

"It looks like a completely destroyed city. If you have the possibility to see a picture, you always imagine that outside this picture is another building which is complete. Now the city is 80 percent destroyed. If they are repairing something it's nothing huge, just a small number of repaired houses."

Czechs have a unique chance to help - in addition to sending money they can also choose a child and provide financial means for his or her education in what is known as a 'long distance adoption" programme.