Thousands of Ukrainians who fled to Europe before the war are returning home. But for now they are staying in the western part of the country, and people from the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine are also moving. I am facing a challenge. In an interview with Aktuálně.cz, the Czech Consul General in Lviv, David Nový, pointed out that “it was not designed for hundreds of thousands of refugees.”
David Nový arrived in the Czech Republic this week to attend the annual meeting of embassy chiefs. After that, he returns to work at the Lviv Consulate General. There are Ukrainians who have returned from the Czech Republic and no longer want to be considered refugees.
The Russian invasion erupted six months ago and is now fighting in the south and east of the country. Is it still known in Lviv that there is a war going on in Ukraine?
Lviv is one of the safest regions in Ukraine. At first glance, it may seem that there is no war because there are so many people on the street. Shops, restaurants, offices and businesses are in operation. But you can feel the war there, even if it’s not as present as on the Eastern Front.
The curfew is always from 11:00 pm to 5:00 am. Access to the city has been tightened, with security forces concentrated in the streets. The greatest fear is caused by periodic rocket alarms. They ring daily and last from half an hour to an hour and a half.
They are informed that the Russians have launched a missile and it is unclear in which region of Ukraine it will land. The whole country is on alert for such an alarm and we are all worried if the rocket will come to us. So even though life goes on as usual, the alarm reminds us that Ukraine is at war.
Many Ukrainians who left the country because of the war are now returning. I think most of them stay in the safer west. Is Lviv ready for this?
Yes, many Ukrainians are returning from the Czech Republic and other countries. Since the start of the war, many refugees from eastern and southern Ukraine have also moved to Lviv. Before the war, Lviv’s population exceeded her 700,000, now he is about 1 million.
The good news for the city is that companies, manufacturing plants, entrepreneurs and migrant Ukrainians are also moving from the east. This brings purchasing power and everyone is trying to make Western Ukraine an economic engine. To make matters worse, Lviv was not designed for hundreds of thousands of refugees, especially socially vulnerable people who need to find suitable accommodation.
Can Lviv provide decent accommodation for everyone in winter?
Ukrainians are trying to do this, but the situation is not easy. No one knows how many more refugees will move east to west for the winter. But the efforts of the Lviv region and the rest of the West are for everyone to survive the winter.
From what you say, it sounds like you really don’t believe it.
This is one of the biggest challenges for Lviv. From September 1st, schools and colleges are open to accommodate the socially vulnerable. Now they are looking for alternatives.
Can your office help with this?
Rather, we are looking for ways to help the community financially. We will negotiate with Czech cities and regions how much money we can provide to Ukraine and try to get what individual regions of Ukraine need.
How does Western Ukraine perceive Czech aid?
Couldn’t be more positive. The Czech Republic has provided Ukraine with a lot of help and Ukrainians are very grateful to see it. Substantial support has come from communities, cities, municipalities, non-profit organizations and individuals. Even before the war, in the Transcarpathian region that once belonged to Czechoslovakia, Czechia sounded very good, and now it sounds even better.
The Consulate General is currently working to revoke the refugee status of Ukrainians who have returned from the Czech Republic. How many such requests have you had?
I don’t know the exact number, but the number of requests to remove the so-called temporary protection is increasing day by day. Now we can talk about thousands of units, but I think there will be more requests in the coming weeks. I have.
Furthermore, if you want to apply for a work visa in another country, such as Poland or Germany, you cannot apply for Czech temporary protection. However, in most cases, they apply for cancellation simply because they do not want to return home and register with the refugee system.
Are some Ukrainians at the consulate still interested in the conditions of their stay in the Czech Republic? Are Western Ukrainians still interested in fleeing here for the war?
Currently, the wave of refugees is relatively small, rather Ukrainians are returning. At the same time, many Ukrainians still want to study and work in the Czech Republic on a regular basis and provide information on this. But this interest has nothing to do with war. There are fewer people like that now, but we usually handled it before her.
When the war started, the Czechs closed their consulate in Lviv for two months. Will it work perfectly again?
The consulate now operates with half the staff it had before the war. In February, as soon as the war started, we were evacuated to the Czech Republic in two groups. The consulate reopened on April 25th, I returned there and my other colleague arrived in his May. However, our activities are almost the same as before the war. We are limiting the acceptance of visa applications only.
When will you start taking orders again?
It may already be autumn. However, it depends on how the situation develops, so I don’t want to predict a specific date.
You moved to Lviv a year ago under completely different circumstances. Didn’t you start to regret when the war started?
Certainly not. It’s not easy for anyone now, but it’s the hardest thing for Ukrainians themselves. We are only there as guests. If they can do it, so can we.