“The most important thing is to understand“
Ukrainian students prepare for their new life in the Czech Republic
Fifteen-year-old Sofia is from Kiev and came to the Czech Republic after the start of the war. She left Ukraine only with her mother. She had hoped for a quick return, but this became less and less likely as the war escalated. "When the war started, I was sad, I wanted to stay in Ukraine," she describes her beginnings in the Czech Republic.
While trying to adapt to her new life in the Czech Republic, she enjoys reading, spending time with friends and learning about her new surroundings. One of the newest things she has learnt is the Czech language. "I've been learning since September, about eight months," Sofia says in fluent Czech. "It took me a while to start, about five months, since I was only thinking about going back to Ukraine, but then I started learning and it was a good decision, I'm very happy that I understand what people are saying to me.”
Thanks to UNICEF and the Municipality of Prague’s joint programme, young refugees from Ukraine aged 15-19 can join the “zero-year” classes to learn the Czech language, familiarise themselves with the Czech culture and society, so that they can enrol in the Czech education system or find a job. Over the past year, UNICEF has supported the creation and implementation of zero-year courses in five schools and organizations. More than 150 teenagers are currently attending the courses.
"It was hard to join a Czech school, but then I found these courses, which are for free. And they are very good, we have good teachers explaining the rules of the language, teach us grammar. We also have other useful subjects, not only Czech,” Sofia says. “Czech is not an easy language, sometimes there is too much going in a lesson, it's hard to understand all the rules, it would be nice to have more time."
But she has no plans to give up.
"The most important thing for me is to understand what people want from me and to be able to give the right answer. It's new for us, we want to know the language, we want to speak correctly."
Although Sofia is currently following the Ukrainian curriculum online, she plans to continue her studies in the Czech language in the Czech Republic. "I am studying online, now I am in the tenth grade, next year I will be finishing the eleventh grade and then I want to continue my studies at university here in the Czech Republic. I will already know Czech. I will have more friends and communicate better with other people. I would like to study economics, international relations or something similar."
Local friends are also helping Sofia to settle in the Czech Republic. They walk around Prague together, admiring the architecture, statues and monuments, and occasionally having a picnic. "My Czech friends are very nice, they often tell me about the Czech Republic, how it is here, what is taught in a Czech school, how to apply for university. This really helps me. I also taught them a few things in Ukrainian and about Ukraine."