SPZ Triangle – Inessa meets us in the middle of the Triangle industrial zone, located in the north of Czechia. Although the weather is warm for a March morning, she wraps herself in a jacket, noting that the windblown environment feels different. "I've spent my whole life in big cities, so it took some getting used to," she says.
However, the woman says that the buildings within the zone are well-heated, convenient, and fully furnished, with kitchens, showers, and leisure rooms for children on every floor. The only challenge, according to Inessa, is the isolation of the zone, with the closest grocery store, medical care institution or school located more than 7 km away in the town of Žatec. At first, even the buses did not stop here, but then then members of “Vladař” local action group agreed with the local public transport provider and arranged a bus stop on the site on a stop . Nevertheless, for those who found employment in the surrounding factories, living within walking distance from work is convenient.
As we tour the premises, Inessa shares her story. Her elderly parents came to Czechia with her daughters in March 2022, while Inessa remained in Kryvyi Rih as a nurse, helping to convert the clinic where she worked into a military hospital. Two months later, she was able to join her family at SPZ Triangle.
Many years ago, Inessa came to Czechia as a labour migrant and remembers some Czech from that time. So, it came naturally that in Triangle she works in the IOM-supported project. "I am a mediator between Czechs and Ukrainians,” says Inessa.
“This place hosts people from different regions of Ukraine, with different educational backgrounds and different needs. My job is to identify these needs and, together with coordinator from the local action group Vladař, to help solve them. For instance, many people could not make an appointment for the visa extension interview on their own and I helped them.”
We visit the brightly decorated children's day care, where children, including Inessa's daughter Melaniia, play with their teacher Yuliia. All school-aged children from Triangle go to school, while the places in kindergartens are missing. Thanks to the day care, children under six have educational classes, while their mothers can attend language courses, go shopping or search for work.
"We play, talk, make handicrafts, learn poems and songs, hold festivals and events," says Yuliia. A teacher and sociologist by profession, she knows how important socialization is for children. Before coming to Czechia, she spent several months in occupied Kherson together with her husband and three children. She recalls seeing Russian rockets fly over their heads towards Mykolaiv and says her children used to question the planes they saw in Czechia were peaceful.
Anastasiia, a sad and tired woman, watches the children's games from a corner of the childcare. The psychologist advised her to attend several classes together with her son. Anastasiia says parenting is difficult: "My Sasha has always been restless, but the events of the last year influenced him so much. We left Mykolaiv when we saw the flashes from our windows. Our way to Czechia was long — we passed six countries... We neither came here as tourists nor want to rely on help. My elder son, who is 17 years old, has got a job. I also went to a factory, but I did not work long. There are no places in the kindergarten, so I asked the elderly women from the camp to look after Sasha. One day I came from work and found out that he had fallen down the stairs and hit his head. Luckily it was not that bad, but I dread to imagine what could have happened... Sasha is too active to be left in someone else's care.”
Anastasiia believes that weekly consultations with a psychologist help both her son and her. "I think we all need a psychologist in this camp," she adds.
Most of the people in the settlement are from the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, where the hostilities continue or where the land is heavily mined. However, they express their intention to come back home. Making long-term plans is hard. Will they return home next month? Will their children finish school in Žatec? Should the Triangle be prepared for a new wave of refugees from Ukraine?
The last thing we notice, leaving the refugee settlement in SPZ Triangle, is an elderly woman arranging the flower bed. Some of the flowers she plants will bloom in autumn while others are perennials.
The IOM-supported project MAS “Vladař” consisted of two parts:
- Winterization and renovation of current accommodation in SPZ Triangle, including electricity system reconstruction, fire alarm, convector heaters, heater controls and insulated floors installation, rooms and kitchens furbishing and equipment, and hygienic packages for 56 new beneficiaries.
- Integration and social cohesion services, including community care, psychological consultations, facilitation of social services as well as medical and employment counselling, Czech language integration courses and day care for children under six. Overall 152 refugees from Ukraine benefited from this project component.
The project was generously supported by FCDO of the Government of the United Kingdom.