Events in Ukraine have repercussions across the wider region; neighbouring countries, like Slovakia, are already preparing for the potential arrival of refugees, and Poland has been heavily involved in the diplomatic effort. The Czech Republic is slightly further removed from the crisis, but the tremours can be felt here too - the country has a large Ukrainian population, many of them migrant workers, and on Thursday evening hundreds of Ukrainians demonstrated on Wenceslas Square. Some Czech organisations - like the NGO People in Need - are getting ready to provide humanitarian aid. Earlier we spoke to the organisation's director Šimon Pánek.
“We see the situation as a situation of big humanitarian needs, besides the pro-freedom or pro-democracy clashes. For the moment we are working on putting together a group of doctors and medical staff to be deployed to support the Ukrainian medical staff in Kiev. We will probably soon open an account for people who want to donate money and support and help the victims and their families, and in a couple of weeks we presume we will be part of expected medical evacuations, which means a certain number of injured people will be selected, transported to the Czech Republic and treated, rehabilitated and given rest after their treatment in the Czech Republic.”
Do you think the situation in Ukraine is close to many Czech people’s hearts? Do they feel a natural solidarity?
“Yes. Certainly it’s relatively close to the hearts of the Czech people. It’s only 1,000 km away. It depends how many people react; we’ve already received several dozen enquiries as to how they can help. At the same time, it is not a massive humanitarian crisis, like the tsunami or a full-scale war. So we will see, and we will see how the situation develops. I think those who remember the past, and who care about the destiny of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people and who are really following the struggle of the Ukrainians are very concerned and motivated to do something. I’m not sure it’s the majority of the citizens of the Czech Republic, but definitely a certain number of people are contacting us, they’re expressing their interest in helping, to join in somehow.”