Prague, April 19 (CTK) – The Czech Centre in Kiev participates in the projects that strengthen civil society and help Ukraine on its path to European integration, its director Lucie Rehorikova told CTK on Wednesday.

Ukrainians have clearly decided to be heading for Europe and the centre’s activities follow up this intention, she added.

“We are trying to support a public discussion, bring Czechs who would have something to say about the integration process (to Ukraine). We are trying to be active and help civil society that does not yet speak with a strong and relevant voice to local politicians,” said Rehorikova, who has headed the Czech Centre in Kiev since November 2014.

She assumed the post a year after the civil resistance to president Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to reject the EU association agreement resulted in a revolution that toppled him. Shortly afterwards, Russia annexed Crimea at variance with international law and a war with pro-Russian separatists broke out in Eastern Ukraine.

It is apparent now that Ukraine wants to break free from Russia’s influence and that it is heading for the West, Rehorikova said.

“It might sound banal, but this is really a very significant decision for Ukraine. We cooperate in its integration into Europe being as smooth as possible,” she added.

According to the U.N. data, the conflict in Ukraine has claimed up to 10,000 lives.

Rehorikova is of the view that it has afflicted the whole country.

“In the streets, you have a common feeling that you are in a pleasant, basically Western country where all services and infrastructure are functioning,” she said.

“However, if you start speaking with people about their lives, you can see that there is not a single person in Ukraine untouched by the war,” she added.

Apart from projects to develop civil society, the main task of the Czech Centre in Kiev is to promote Czech culture.

Mainly Czech language courses have been successful in Ukraine and they provoke a deeper interest in the Czech Republic, Rehorikova said

“This is a natural way of spreading our history, culture and all other things that the Czech Republic can offer,” she said.

Native speakers, often students of Ukrainian or Czech studies who arrive in Ukraine for study stays, help teach in the Czech language courses that are held in seven towns. Almost 1000 people attended them last year.

The Czech Centres, established in 1993, are subsidised organisations of the Foreign Ministry that promote the Czech Republic abroad in the area of culture, education, trade and tourism. They have 22 branches on three continents, for instance, in Berlin, Moscow, Paris, Vienna, New York and Tokyo.

Monika Koblerova was assigned to temporarily head the Czech Centres network in April, replacing general director Jiri Zavesicky.

He was criticised for having refused to appoint Jean-Gaspard Palenicek as head of the Czech Centre in Paris though he won an open competition for the post. A number of significant French intellectuals and academics stood up for Palenicek and sent a protest letter to Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek who sacked Zavesicky eventually for managerial mistakes.