The Adaptation Center in Chudov helps to forget about war and prepare for school

Volunteer Coordinator and Assistant Matog Schulch.Volunteer Coordinator and Assistant Matog Schulch.Source: Diary / Zuzana HronováThe center’s management is coordinated by Matěj Šulc, a student at Charles University’s Evangelical Theology, with two other people. When the war in Ukraine began, he worked as a volunteer at the main railway station in Prague, and then with the Ecumenical Pastoral Service on the Czech border. “Then one May day I went to help move here at the Adaptation Center. And I’ve stayed here ever since,” he smiles. He is responsible for finding and organizing assistance and volunteers, as well as communicating with lecturers.

Today, more than 140 children are cared for in Chudov, making it probably the largest such center in the country. Parents managed to enroll almost ninety of them in Czech schools and kindergartens, and ten of them will return to Ukraine. About 35 children would like to continue, and 45 new children will join them.

While an hour of consultation usually costs a thousand kroner, as part of the #hlavunadvodou project, participating psychotherapists work for half that and offer the first session free of charge.  Illustrative image

The non-profit organization helps Ukrainians with free psychotherapy. There is a shortage of money for new applicants

They don’t just want to offer a babysitting service so that Ukrainian mothers can work and attend language courses. They are trying to prepare their fees as best as possible for Czech schools and kindergartens, to teach them the Czech language and to give them psychological assistance because of the trauma they have experienced. But the money from the grant from the Ministry of Education is just enough for normal operation, and they have to find money from private donors for all the other things.

“At first, the children were very wild, restless, and stressed. It’s much better now,” says Elena, one of the teachers. She studied pedagogy and psychotherapy courses in Ukraine. In the Czech Republic, where she lived for twelve years, she worked as a lighting and sound engineer in Theater. Now, thanks to the center, she has been able to return to her original profession. “We have a mix of children from big cities and small villages here. We had to teach those from the countryside about city life so that they could get used to the crowded streets or take the metro. At first they were very afraid of him. Now we go with them not only to the nearby forest, but also to the center of Prague, museums and libraries,” adds Matog.

Czech in the main role

He guides us through a four-story maze filled with former offices, as improvised as playrooms, classrooms, dressing rooms, and dining rooms. Food is brought by people from the project breakfast story. It is cooked by social enterprises, and when someone buys lunch from them for 160 kroner, the company prepares two portions and sends one to the poor who cannot buy a hot meal at noon.

Elena shows us her class for children from six to ten and explains that she tries to play as many contact games and board games in Czech with them as possible, so that she can talk to them as much as possible before school starts. “Even when we go for a walk in the woods, we try to speak Czech with them and explain to them the Czech names of things,” he says.

We come to a group of the youngest children aged three to five years. Ukrainian and Czech teacher works with them. “They almost turned it upside down here a while ago, how it rains and they can’t get out. So I let them have a quiet fairy tale,” Czech teacher Dana explains with a smile. Kids now happily watch Tom and Jerry and laugh at their endless chases. “When you spend a day with them, you will not know that they have gone through some of the horrors of war, and they seem relaxed. Then one day their shock suddenly appears. That is why psychologists come here regularly,” explains Matuj.

Psychotherapist Magda Bartoshova

The therapist says Ukrainians have had borderline experiences, and the stories are hard for us too

The teacher recalls how difficult it was to get little Ukrainians to get used to the rules in Czech kindergartens at first, which she tries to pass on to them. “They have a different mentality and a different upbringing. Added to that is the language barrier. Now everything is fine, they understand me and know what I want from them and they respect that.”

Finally, we got to the room where the oldest of the kids, ages 12-14, comes in. Paper pigeons hang from ceilings as a symbol of peace, and pictures are littered with Ukrainian flags as well as tanks and soldiers. “Older children have a greater need to express what they are experiencing and feeling. This, for example, was drawn by a twelve-year-old girl,” says Matug Scholk, pointing to a picture of the starry sky written in Ukrainian: “The day will come when the stars will begin to appear. Not missiles landing.”


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