“We call it a dream village”: how Slovakia is welcoming Ukrainian refugees

In Vyšné Nemecké, the Slovakian side of the border with Ukraine, the refugee crisis looks very different from the devastating images coming from the Polish borders.

As the sun shines over Vyšné Nemecké, Ukrainians who cross the border – now guarded from 100 meters by the Slovak police – are welcomed by a wide range of smiley volunteers, who offer from legal information and transport arrangements to food, clothing and shelter. 

Slovakia is currently the 5th country with the highest number of Ukrainian refugees, having welcomed almost 280 thousand as of today, according to the UNHCR – the biggest migration to the country since the civil wars in the former Yugoslavia.

The coordinated efforts of local and international organisations, such as the Red Cross, People in Need, Scouts and Malteser Aid Slovakia, with the support of the local government, have resulted in a camp area with a very organised infrastructure: a complex of volunteer tents, heated sleeping shelters, healthcare teams, a children area and flushing toilets.

While the Slovakian government has offered security through local police and firefighters, as well as energy and gas for heating, available in some of the tents, most of the efforts are coordinated by the volunteers, who meet every day to redefine the next steps. “We call it a dream village”, says Stano Biellic, a Slovakian volunteer and one of the local coordinators of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA). “With the support of all the volunteers and with the donations, we are able to offer refugees food, shelter, clothing, and even baby supplies and toys”, says Biellic.

Stano Biellic, a Slovakian volunteer and one of the local coordinators of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency
Red Cross Slovakia has provided a complex of tents with heating, where refugees can stay overnight before continuing their journey towards their final destination.
Volodymyr and Liudmyla, standing in front of one of the heated sleeping shelters, fled Ukraine through Slovak upon their daughter’s recommendation, to avoid the situation in Poland.
Newly arrived refugees in Vyšné Nemecké, the Slovakian side of the border.

Photos: Amanda Magnani

Příspěvek vznikl v rámci kurzu Foreign Correspondence pod vedením doc. PhDr. Alice Němcové Tejkalové a Ph.D. Mgr. Veroniky Mackové, Ph.D.

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