Eastern Europe | Support for Ukrainians decreases over time

(Prague) This week Ruslana Hrytskiv asked on Facebook for a shoe donation for young twins, refugees from Ukraine in the Czech Republic, but her post only sparked a debate about the hygienic contraindications to wearing second-hand shoes.

Posted at 1:22 p.m

Jan Flemer
Media Agency France

She argued that the mother of these children had no money to buy them clothes, but her explanations convinced no one.

“Responses to requests are slower. At the start of the conflict, people were incredibly responsive,” explains Fraume Hrytskiv, Ukrainian, has lived in the Czech Republic for more than 20 years.

Since the February 24 Russian invasion, Ruslana has helped “dozens, maybe hundreds” of refugees, including the twins’ mother, who gave birth to a third child while fleeing to Prague.

The observation of Mme Hrystkiv converges with that of many Eastern European humanitarian organizations. The countries in this region are home to hundreds of thousands of conflict refugees, mostly women with children.

Like the rest of Europe, the region has been hit by inflation, particularly due to the Russian invasion, which has forced households to rein in spending.

“The willingness to help has decreased since the beginning of the war,” observes Eszter Bakondi Kiss, a volunteer at the Hungarian NGO Habitat for Humanity, which coordinates a refugee shelter program.

“We received a lot more housing offers at the beginning of the war,” she told the AFP news agency.

Donations are falling at the Slovakian NGO People in Need. They went from 650,000 euros in February and March to 85,000 for the month of May, his spokeswoman Simona Stiskalova announced.

“It’s a natural effect. A concern at the center of the news generates a lot of engagement. Then interest crumbles,” explains Svilena Georgiev, head of the Bulgarian Za Dobroto Foundation.

“Nevertheless, 90 percent of the donations we receive are still earmarked for actions supporting Ukraine,” she says.

Economic difficulties

“Poverty threatens a growing part of the country’s population,” explains Prague sociologist Daniel Prokop.

“In this context, there are fears that support for Ukraine will crowd out support for the local population,” he told AFP.

However, Klara Splichalova, head of the Donor Forum in Prague, assures us that donations are still significant, despite a decline compared to when the war started.

“People know that there is no solution to the conflict in sight and that donations must be made regularly and over the long term,” she continues.

Lavinia Varodi, who works for the Romanian branch of the NGO Save the Children, says companies and individuals have “exhausted their budgets”.

“Only big organizations continue to donate because they have the means to provide specific funds to the Ukrainian cause,” she says.

Agnès Baranyai, a volunteer at a youth hostel in Budapest that houses refugees, regrets that support is waning with the summer holidays.

“Everyone wants a return to normal life,” she comments.

new needs

“Support is still necessary, but needs are changing,” analyzes Dominika Pszczolkowska, a researcher specializing in migration at the University of Warsaw.

“Ukrainians are trying to integrate into the labor market. They are not trying to take advantage of the allowances that Poles appreciate,” she develops to AFP.

Of the 4.5 million Ukrainians who fled their country via Poland, about 300,000 have found official employment there, albeit often below their qualifications.

“Ukrainians are making up for the lack of workers in certain sectors,” Poland’s family minister said on Friday.

In neighboring Czech Republic, where around 400,000 refugees live, 77,000 have found a job.

Among them is a mother of two from Odessa who stayed with Ruslana when the conflict began in February. She now works in a bakery.

“Companies don’t offer them stable contracts, which is a problem. But at least it gets them work, explains Ruslana Hrytskiv, who is now hosting another refugee.

“I’m always ready to jump in my car to help. I feel the gratitude of those I help and that is the greatest reward,” she emphasizes.

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