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Czech News in English » News » National » Týden: Social status of Ukrainians improving in Czech Republic

Týden: Social status of Ukrainians improving in Czech Republic

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Prague, Feb 20 (CTK) – The social status of Ukrainians in the Czech Republic has been undergoing a big change and they work not only as unskilled labourers at construction sites but also as doctors in hospitals and teachers at universities, weekly Tyden writes yesterday.
Twenty years ago, Ukrainians were often considered a horde of uneducated and permanently drunk manual workers. “Dozens of tipsy Ukrainians are staggering in the neighbourhood every night. Excrements, urine and vomit in the house and its surroundings are becoming common,” Tyden quotes from a 1999 report of the Czech daily Vecernik Praha.
“The position of Ukrainians in changing a lot. Their social status is increasing, but not all are happy about it,” Ukrainian writer Alexei Sevruk, who now lives in Prague, said.
Sevruk has no problems since he lives in an intellectual environment, but he knows that people in a Czech village pub might strongly dislike him. Discussions under reports about Ukrainian manpower in the country on Czech news servers are full of radical statements against foreign workers, Tyden writes.
Though it is extremely difficult to be granted a Czech visa in Ukraine, many Ukrainians interested in highly qualified jobs undergo Czech language courses in the Czech Centre in Kiev. Czech is also taught in Kharkiv, Lviv and Vinnytsia. In Odesa and Zaporizhia, the courses will begin in April.
“Last year, about one thousand people underwent the courses. And the number of middle-aged Ukrainian university graduates who wish to do their jobs in the Czech Republic keeps growing. My colleague in Vinnytsia taught four doctors from the Donetsk Oblast,” Czech Centre in Kiev head Lucie Rehorikova said.
Rehorikova said she is aware that a lot of Ukrainian teachers still work as cleaning women at Czech schools and Ukrainian engineers as bricklayers at construction sites.
However, highly educated Ukrainians more and more often work in their own professions. They moved from unskilled jobs to respected posts and from dormitories to nice rented flats.
Miroslav Prochazka, board director of a holding operating a hospital in the Hradec Kralove Region in eastern Bohemia, said the hospital employs 60 foreign doctors, including 32 from Slovakia and 15 from Ukraine. Most of the Ukrainian doctors arrived in the last four years, he said.
Czech and Slovak doctors go to work abroad, mainly to West Europe, and Ukrainian doctors take their positions in hospitals. Unfortunately, this further worsens the bad health care in Ukraine. “Ukraine is a corrupt state, Maidan changed little about this. Only doctors who are not very capable remain in (Ukrainian) hospitals, often with diplomas they bought,” Sevruk said.
“Doctors with bought diplomas can spoil even a banal operation,” Rehorikova said. She said doctors often only treat patients who give them a bribe.
Rehorikova said in Kiev she came across a rather high number of children who became deaf because bad doctors prescribed them antibiotics for common illnesses too often.
It is estimated that there are 150,000 vacancies on the Czech labour market, which Czechs cannot or do not want to do, and these jobs could be legally done by foreigners.
Officially, about 55,000 Ukrainians have legal employment in the Czech Republic, other Ukrainians run businesses and, along with their families, they form a community of about 100,000 people in the country with 10.5 million inhabitants. Up to thousands of Ukrainians are employed illegally, Tyden writes.
Czech hospitals, car factories and hotel operators would like to hire staff from Ukraine, but only a limited number of Czech visas are granted to Ukrainians.
Magda Faltova, head of the Czech Centre for Integration and Migration, said Ukrainians have to wait months only to be allowed to submit their visa application in Kiev or Lviv. “If they don’t pay a thousand dollars to mediators, they actually have no chance (to get a visa),” she said.
“The barriers that the Czech side makes for Ukrainians are bigger and bigger. When I arrived in the Czech Republic in 2001, the situation was much better,” said Ukrainian surgeon Oleg Khrolenko, who works in the Hradec Kralove municipal hospital.
Khrolenko first worked in the Czech Republic as a digger and waiter. He has been working as a doctor since 2004.
In the early 2000s, a Ukrainian doctor was an exception in the country, while now Ukrainian doctors and nurses are more common and hospitals still need more. The Hradec Kralove hospital tries to hire staff in Ukraine, but even if it finds a doctor, the person may not be allowed to apply for a visa for months.
Both Czech Confederation of Industry head Jaroslav Hanak and Czech Chamber of Commerce head Vladimir Dlouhy are critical of the system, due to which only a small part of Ukrainians who would like to work in the country are allowed entry, Tyden says.
Volodya Kis, who does gardening work in Prague parks, said nearly all men from his village, Raztoka in the Carpathian Mountains, would like to work in the Czech Republic, but it is impossible for his neighbours to get a work visa.
Czechs do not want to do the gardening work in Prague parks because the job is inferior and badly paid for them. Ukrainians often receive salaries that are markedly below the Czech average wage, yet they are about ten times higher that the pay they would get at home.
“They come with a vision of a better future,” Rehorikova said about those Ukrainians who leave their homeland affected by poverty and violence. Ukrainians realise more than Czechs that the two nations are geographically, linguistically and mentally close to each other, she said.
Young Ukrainians consider Czechs a kind of elves among Slavs who are doing well in Central Europe, Rehorikova said.

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