Immigration changing Czech society
The Czech society has traditionally been quite homogenous. Of course, there have always been regional differences in dialect, culture, folk music. But people understand each other no matter which part of the country they come from, consider themselves to be of one nationality. And that has started changing.
“The Czech Republic has become a standard destination country for legal immigration during the past twenty years, or so. It is now normal that we process dozens of thousands of legal applications for entry and long-term stay of foreign nationals.”
The influx of foreigners has nothing to do with the recent refugee crisis. The Czech economy is doing very well, even booming in some places, and this brings unexpected problems and difficulties. The new industrial zone in Kvasiny, Eastern Bohemia, could serve as a case in point.
The car maker Škoda Volkswagen proudly presented its new production complex a few years ago. And rightly so, it is super-modern and created thousands of job opportunities not just for the company itself but its contractors, too. In fact, the new work opportunities created were so plentiful that there were not enough Czechs to fill them, recruitment started in Poland, Slovakia, and Ukraine. Jan Hostinský is the mayor of the neighboring town of Solnice:
As foreign workers started arriving, they needed accommodation, health, recreation and other services that were limited or non-existent. When you have a lot of mainly young men with nothing to do in the evening but hang around with money to spend, it may lead to trouble. Mayor Hostinský again:
Mayor Hostinský says that contrary to rumor, the reaction of both the central and local authorities was mostly quick and effective:
“The Ministry of Interior opened a new immigration police station and at the same time a special Coordination Center which helps foreign workers. It communicates on a regular basis with employers, the local authorities but, primarily with the immigrant workers and their representatives. It provides them with information and assistance. It generates interesting new approaches to cooperation. For example, if there is a new group of foreign workers who come looking for employment, the Coordination Center is their first stop. They get information about all the legal requirements and paperwork, possibilities for recreation and how to spend their free time, what medical and accommodation facilities are available, what are the local requirements for public order.”
“Since our school is right in the center of Prague, about twenty percent of our pupils are from foreign families. They come from practically all continents of the world. This year, for example, we have three new children from India who did not speak any Czech when they came. Then we have some children from Indonesia. But most of the children come from the countries of the former Soviet Union – Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, Kazakhstan etc. “
Teaching is hard work. Having to teach children who do not speak the language makes it even more difficult. But Hana Vítová sees it more as a positive challenge rather than an insurmountable obstacle:
This is an eloquent explanation as to why Czechs should accept the fact that they now live in a less homogenous society and draw inspiration rather than frustration from it.