To keep the sky from falling - Extraordinary stories of human unity
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In Beroun, inspirational support for newcomers from Ukraine is growing from the cultural underbelly. Journalist Fatima Rahimi met Lenka Daňhelová, organizer of the international poetry festival Stranou, Michaela Škeříková, director of the Beroun Municipal Library, and poet Iryna Zahladko at the local library. Listen to the story about the role of art and culture in tense times.
Beroun is a town where the people around the Stranou Literary Festival, the Sunflower Family Centre, the Jiná káva (The Different Coffee) café and the Municipal Library have managed to unite in helping people from Ukraine. Through many activities and cultural events, the local community has created a stable meeting place. The Beroun story is also the focus of a new podcast from the International Organization for Migration about the hidden strength of our communities.
The Beroun Municipal Library is housed in a former barracks where new arrivals from Ukraine who had to leave their homes because of the war found temporary accommodation. Thanks to its additional space and the friendliness of its director Michaela Škeříková, the library also acts as a meeting point for cultural events, which are organized in close cooperation with Lenka Daňhelová, president of the Literary association Stranou, and Iryna Zahladko, a Ukrainian-Czech poet and writer.
Their cooperation in helping newcomers from Ukraine began at the Stranou festival, where one day was dedicated to Ukraine. It involved both the Jiná káva café and the Beroun Municipal Library, where a number of workshops were held for children. The one-day programme gave rise to an ongoing and well-organised collaboration, which has enabled the community to respond organically to the needs of local families. In the spring, for example, the community coordinators concentrated on organizing art classes for children, with the help of volunteers from the local school of education. In September, they focused on integrating Ukrainian children into the Czech environment, where they successfully started to make Czech friends.
"We are organizing the aid in way that we can go through it and continue to be able to help. Our continuous help doesn't mean that we have to be at every course, every event that takes place. It is important that the activities can take place regardless of whether we are on the other side of the continent," says Lenka Daňhelová, adding: "I think we are trying to do what is important. What we have been able to notice that is important."
"I would say natural solidarity is about not having to think about whether you're going to help or not. When something happens, you just know it's right to help. It's clear, natural, spontaneous," says Iryna Zahladko, a Ukrainian-Czech poet. According to her, such organic community assistance can effectively complement the help of the state, which has been able to provide for the most urgent needs, but the solidarity and willingness of local people has already helped to identify and fulfil the others. Whether it was, for example, childcare or help in finding a job.
A story from Beroun about the role of art and culture in tense times is the subject of the second episode of the new podcast To keep the sky from falling - Extraordinary stories of human unity from the International Organization for Migration. The podcast is hosted and narrated by journalist Fatima Rahimi, who travels to five Czech cities to meet groups supporting Ukrainian refugees and their families. Rahimi gradually discovers how a consciousness of togetherness is emerging that has helped us cope surprisingly well with the unprecedented migration situation over the past year.
A five-part podcast series So the sky won't fall - Extraordinary Stories of Human Cohesion created by Kineticon. It is publicly available for listening on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or YouTube. Voiceover of the podcast is narrated by Petra Bučková. The selection of the communities for the podcast was made in cooperation with the Via Foundation, which supported the projects of communities from Beroun, Klatovy and Jablonec nad Nisou from its From Ukraine Among Us programme. The project is commissioned by the International Organization for Migration - IOM Czech Republic and is based on the global It Takes a Community movement celebrating how all people, regardless of where they were born, contribute to making our communities better places to live and call home.