Ukrainian expatriates to begin arriving in Czech Republic in March

Volhynia Czechs, photo: Czech Television

The Czech Foreign Ministry has confirmed that the repatriation of ethnic Czechs from Ukraine will begin in March, some arriving by bus, others by special government plane. Expatriate families appealed to be allowed to return to the home of their ancestors after Russia annexed Crimea and intense fighting Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels broke out.

Volhynia Czechs,  photo: Czech Television
After a special consulate was set up in Odessa to issue passports and visas, it appears that some 150 ethnic Czechs, from the region of Volhynia will be returning “home”. Though not directly affected by fighting or the humanitarian crisis in the east of the country, they began petitioning the Czech government last year in anticipation of worsening conditions and primarily over the fear of war. At first, they were declined but later, as the conflict intensified, the government changed its mind.

Expatriates returning will be given temporary lodgings at an Interior Ministry-owned hotel in south Bohemia, where they will be provided the following: health care, language courses and other benefits - including a one-time payment of 50,000 crowns to help new residents begin setting up new lives. After half a year, the Volhynia Czechs should be able to move forward on their own, although other support organisations, such as the Archdiocese Caritas Prague, will continue providing help, if requested. The charity’s assistant director Pavel Šimek told Czech TV this:

“We will work together with all those who apply, assisting families with practical things they will need.”

Those returning come from all age groups, the oldest in her 90s, the youngest, a baby born just a few days ago, Archdiocese Caritas Prague’s Pavel Šimek confirmed:

Artemivsk,  Ukraine,  photo: CTK
“When we were in Odessa, one of those who will be returning to the Czech Republic was born. So those returning range from the very youngest to a lady aged 92.”

There are an estimated 10,000 people with Czech roots living in Ukraine, most of them on in the north-western Volhynia region, so one hundred-and-fifty returning is not a particularly high number. At the same time, if the fragile peace deal collapses and the conflict continues to intensify, Czech officials expect the number of applications will increase. The first of those who have been granted long-term residency will begin returning in March through August, officials have said.