Over hundred university students from Belarus find refuge in Czechia
More than a hundred university students from Belarus have found refuge in the Czech Republic, after being forced to flee their country following persecution by President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime. They have been supported not only by the universities that took them in, but also by the Ministry of Education and their new classmates.
One of the Belarusian students who found asylum in the Czech Republic is Lizaveta, who is currently studying at the Technical University of Liberec. She was forced to flee Belarus after taking part in a demonstration against the Lukashenko regime in the summer of 2020, which was followed by a wave of repressions.
Through the Belarusian Student Association, Lizaveta is connected with Belarusian students who have fled to other countries, such as Ukraine, Poland, Germany or Lithuania.
Together, they are trying to support those who have stayed at home, for instance by sending letters to former classmates who were imprisoned for taking part in the anti-government protests:
“We want to show them that there are many of us and we haven’t forgotten them. For example, I have three friends who are in prison. They have to work, they sew clothes for the police. When you write a letter to the prison, you have to bear in mind that it’s going to be censored.”
Lizaveta says memories of the harsh suppression and intimidation following the protests still haunt her. But when asked if she misses Belarus, she answers without thinking:
“Of course I do. I really want to see my family and friends, but it is simply not possible at the moment. Nobody can be safe in Belarus because we don’t know what will happen tomorrow.”
Lizaveta has already completed a language course and a semester of classes in Czech, but she says technical terms still present a challenge for her.
One of the projects helping Belarusian students to settle down in the Czech Republic is the 11 plus 1 initiative, which offers various forms of tutoring.
Petr Ťoupalík, a PhD student at Charles University, is one of the people behind the project:
“We have already connected approximately 60 people across the Czech Republic. Most of them are studying Czech and a few are repeating some specific subjects such as the history of Central Europe or linear algebra.”
Meanwhile, the Czech Ministry of Education supports Belarusian students in the country with special scholarships. Schools receive CZK 12,500 a month per student. Radek Pirkl is a spokesman for the University of Liberec.
“We pay a scholarship of CZK 9,500 to students from Belarus. The remaining sum is used to cover other costs, such as textbooks or the costs for the teaching of Czech.”
In the first semester of this academic year, some 113 students from 12 universities received financial support from the Ministry of Education. Most of them are studying at Charles University, the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen and the Technical University of Liberec.