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Ukrainians have no place to go. The city does not know what to do with them, the prisoners will return to the open ward

They are in danger of being on the street soon. (English version).

Ukraine refugees in Prešov
Ukraine refugees in Prešov
Case about Ukraine's regugees at Prešov, Slovakia - kauza ukrajinských odídencov z otvoreného oddelenia v Prešove, SR - anglická verzia/English version.

Ukrajinská verzia/Ukraine's version/Українська версія:
https://novyny.sme.sk/c/23341234/ukraintsi-z-priasheva-zhyly-u-prymishchenni-viaznytsi.html

Originálny článok v slovenčine:
https://presov.korzar.sme.sk/c/23334751/ukrajinci-nemaju-kde-ist-mesto-nevie-co-s-nimi-na-otvorene-oddelenie-sa-vratia-vazni.html

Pokračovanie kauzy 1:
https://presov.korzar.sme.sk/c/23331819/miliony-na-ukrajinsku-krizu-sa-rozplynuli-v-rozpocte-odidencom-hrozi-ze-ostanu-na-ulici.html

Pokračovanie kauzy 2:
https://presov.korzar.sme.sk/c/23342637/priestory-chcu-pre-vaznov-osud-odidencov-je-nejasny-riesenie-hlada-mesto-aj-stat.html

PREŠOV. "Our house is still standing, or rather part of it, the other part was destroyed. We would like to return, but it's too close to the front, " says Nadja Drit, a pensioner from Ukraine's Kharkiv region. Nadja, along with her husband Mihail, fled to Prešov shortly after the onset of the Russian invasion. Since April 2022, they have tried to rebuild their lives in the Šariš region's metropolis. Now, however, their future in Prešov is uncertain.

"We escaped from bandits. For two months, we lived underground, in the basement... We left everything there. When we were running away, bombs were falling behind our car, " Nadja recalls, her eyes welling up with tears. Both she and her husband require daily medical attention for diabetes and high blood pressure. At the time of our meeting, Mihail was at work.

Nadja Drit is among 66 Ukrainian exiles who have found temporary refuge in the open ward of the Prešov prison on Pionierská Street. Originally, the facility housed nearly 150 refugees, but many have since returned to Ukraine or secured commercial subleases. For Nadja and her husband Mihail, returning is not an option and renting privately is prohibitively expensive. The 60-euro pension is quickly consumed by the cost of medicines. Most residents of the open ward face similar challenges.

Only the vulnerable remained

In the former prison ward that now serves as a temporary refuge, only the most vulnerable individuals remained. These include women, pensioners, mothers with small children, and severely disabled persons, primarily from Eastern Ukraine's Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kherson, and Dnepropetrovsk regions, including occupied territories. Those with the means to leave have mostly done so, leaving behind only those with nowhere else to turn.

The residents can stay in the facility only until the end of August, after which it will revert to its original purpose. Neither the city nor the county has alternative accommodations available. Compounding the crisis, the state support program will end in June, potentially leaving more Ukrainian women from commercial accommodations without shelter.

No place to go

"We have been together for 52 years. Here we found a nest of love, " say Nikolay and Tatiana Pisocki from the Kherson region, laughing through their tears.
"First we were bombed and then we were flooded. We really thank the liberators, " Nikolay adds with biting sarcasm, leaning on his walking stick.

"We got used to this place. There is normal life here, it is good here. I am diabetic and have skin cancer, " says 76-year-old Liliana Matyushenka, whose original home is in the Donetsk region, just 20 kilometres from the front line.

"We have nowhere to go, " adds Lydia Kapkova from Nikopol. It is one of the most heavily guarded cities, with only a minefield, the Dnieper River, and behind it the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant, which is controlled by the Russian side.

Even Larisa Parfionova from Dnipro, who is confined to a wheelchair, cannot imagine how she could return. Nela and Mykola Ivanov, a couple from the embattled town of Lyman, share similar uncertainty: "We don't know what's with our house at all. The 'orcs' have already occupied us; they are still attacking there. Our legs hurt, I can't walk properly, and I have heart disease, " Mykola explains.
Several residents of Pionierská Street come from Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region. Xenia Diachenko, for instance, is in Prešov with her two children. Her two-year-old daughter stays at home, while her nine-year-old son attends the nearby Važecká elementary school.

Natalia Chomyak from Kryvyi Rih is also in Prešov with her children. She has three children; her daughter remained in Ukraine, while her sons, aged 8 and 14, attend school in Prešov. Natalia is a widow; her husband went to war in 2014 and lost his life in 2018.

"It would be good if the war ended and we went home, " says Valentina Dedeshko, an elderly woman from Kramatorsk, expressing a common sentiment among the refugees. Unfortunately, it is unrealistic.

Temporary solution

Neither do the refugees nor the authorities know what will happen next. The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that the Institute for the Execution of Punishment intends to reclaim the open ward after two years. Miriam Gašparíková from the press department explained that the premises were provided as a temporary and emergency solution during the mass influx of refugees: "In connection with the long-term development of the war conflict, which has lasted for more than two years and is currently still without the prospect of a solution that would allow the safe return of citizens of Ukraine to their homeland, it cannot be considered appropriate to continue to use premises intended for the execution of the sentence of imprisonment of convicted persons for long-term civilian accommodation."
According to the ministry, the premises are "adapted for the accommodation of convicts who are restricted in some basic rights and freedoms." Convicts serving lighter sentences had to be transferred elsewhere to make room for the refugees.

The city has no premises

With the planned reclamation of the open ward by the Institute for the Execution of Punishment, the responsibility for housing the Ukrainian refugees has shifted to local self-government. "The city currently has no free capacity. All rental apartments are occupied, and since we are not the founders of secondary schools, we do not even have dormitory accommodation available, " explains Deputy Mayor Peter Krajňák.

According to him, "the city was not officially asked to cooperate, and currently the future of the facility on Pionierská Street in the Prešov-Šváby district is in the hands of the Prison and Judicial Guard Corps, which is subordinate to the Minister of Justice."
How will they handle the situation? Krajňák notes that "the city was not officially asked to cooperate, and currently the future of the facility on Pionierská Street in the Prešov-Šváby district is in the hands of the Prison and Judicial Guard Corps, which is subordinate to the Minister of Justice."
"Based on feedback from individuals from Ukraine, the city is acutely aware of their concerns regarding future accommodation. Recently, we have engaged with the crisis management department of the District Office in Prešov, raised this issue at the meeting of the chairmanship of the Association of Cities and Towns of Slovakia, and we are in the process of drafting a letter to the Minister of Justice... , " adds Mr. Krajňák.

He expressed apprehension that the announced suspension of accommodation allowances could lead to financial difficulties for several families or individuals, potentially rendering them unable to afford commercial housing options. The city is actively exploring avenues to mitigate this impending crisis and ensure continued support for the Ukrainian refugees in Prešov.
County: We have no plans to expand accommodation capacity
We have also approached representatives of Prešov County regarding the assistance they have provided. According to them, approximately three hundred refugees have been accommodated in their facilities, including dormitories in Svidník, Vranov nad Topľou, Bardejov, and Snina. Subsequently, additional support was offered through a hostel in Prešov.

However, spokeswoman Daša Jeleňová clarified that the county does not intend to expand its accommodation capacities furthe.

Their strategy emphasizes self-sufficiency among Ukrainian migrants, encouraging them to actively seek employment opportunities and integrate into Slovakian society independently. "The county anticipates that Ukrainian migrants will take initiative in their employment and societal integration efforts, " she emphasized. According to the county's perspective, establishing "separate communities" would not facilitate the achievement of these integration goals.

Belej: The situation is grave

"I don't see any available accommodations, and we're dealing with a relatively large group of people who need suitable conditions. This needs to be resolved urgently, and these individuals should not be left in dire circumstances, " emphasizes Lukáš Belej, an expert in crisis management and a volunteer.

"These are individuals from areas experiencing severe living conditions and intense conflict, some even from villages already under occupation. They are effectively stranded from returning to Ukraine, as in most cases, they have nowhere to go back to. It's a critical situation, and I firmly believe that the responsible authorities will collaborate to find solutions for their accommodation, " he stresses. According to Belej, the optimal approach would be to avoid dividing these individuals: "They form a community that supports one another, whether it's childcare, medical needs, or other assistance. It's a challenging process, but I am confident that suitable accommodations can be found for them."

Currently, however, it appears that dozens of vulnerable refugees will face homelessness after the summer.

Predklad/translantion: jaspravim.sk

 
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