Fundraiser for Ukrainian refugees at the Zbraslav shelter in Prague, Czech Republic

By Sandra Kelly Klassen

A woman hitches a ride with a Ukrainian driver who stayed in the country to volunteer to drive Ukrainians fleeing the country to safety. The passenger is accompanied by her own child and two of her neighbour’s children, their parents recently killed in the Russian bombing. Along the way, the passenger spots a small girl sitting on the curb with a small backpack. The child is clearly traumatized, hunkered down in despair. “Stop!” shouts the passenger, who rushes to the girl’s side once the car pulls over. The girl is paralyzed by the fact that both her parents have been killed. She is eight years old and all alone. Upon investigation, the passenger discovers that the backpack contains the girl’s documentation. Imagine her parents having to prepare in this way for the possibility that they would not survive the Russian invasion. The driver takes her four passengers to their destination, and hopefully to safety.

A group of Czech grandmothers, all in their 70s, sets up a nursery/daycare for Ukrainian refugees’ children three years old and under in Prague, Czech Republic. They see that the Ukrainian mothers must work and that care for this age group of children in Czech Republic is prohibitively expensive. So, they find a space, equip it, hire a nurse to join their volunteer staff, and, at their advanced ages, care for these children so their mothers can be employed.

My sister, Colleen Kelly, born in Williams Lake, lives an hour outside Prague. Colleen’s friend Kaca became involved in the Zbraslav shelter for Ukrainian refugees in Prague. Colleen is now involved in helping to supply fresh food, clothing, medical, and dental aid. As well, the vacant office building, now the shelter, needed to be equipped with showers, kitchen sinks, cooking facilities, washers and dryers, vacuums, and more. The shelter houses 74 refugees, mostly women and children. Imagine setting up a home for 74 people then providing the day-to-day necessities to keep them fed and sheltered. It’s costly!

To help with the financial costs, Colleen, and I have established a GoFundMe account to raise funds for the Zbraslav shelter’s refugees. The account is called Jar of Honey for Ukraine, and the idea is that one bee cannot make a jar of honey, but many bees can. We have been generating donations from both sides of the Atlantic to provide funding for the shelter. The shelter’s refugees are so very frugal with these donations. They feel the war will be long and that at some point they will need to find alternate housing, which they will have to pay for themselves. Donors also have the option of donating via e-transfer by contacting me through my Facebook account @Sandra-Wayne Klassen.

Meanwhile, the push has been for children to attend Czech schools and for the adults to find employment in a country where they don’t speak the language. Despite being teachers, agronomists, students, and stay-at-home moms, these people only qualify for entry level, low-paying jobs because of the language barrier. Rents, when the Czech government humanitarian aid soon comes to an end, are expensive in Prague. Pressing and concerning questions remain: Where will the refugees find new shelter? How will they afford it?

Colleen is employing four of the refugees part-time to help with gardening and cleaning at her cottage, Rusty’s Cottage, a tourist destination. Others work at bakeries or do cleaning jobs to help make up shortfalls. But the wages will not be enough to rent a new place to live when the time comes.

Our Jar of Honey donors have admirably opened their hearts and wallets to these people. They have been empathetic and generous. Yet the costs to house the refugees continues to climb, and the refugees are very conscious of this. Colleen and I are doing all we can to reach out to other donors to keep the fund growing and help secure a home away from home for the refugees. Please donate to help the Zbraslave shelter refugees, and many thanks for your generosity.

The refugees are allowing themselves few, if any, personal items. They arrived at the shelter with the little they could carry as they fled Ukraine. They are lonesome for their homeland, worried about their families and friends who stayed behind, and worried about their futures in a foreign country that can’t sustain them long term.

A Ukrainian mother and daughter wanted to return home only to discover through the news that home no longer existed. These people and many like them are the refugees seeking shelter, and their needs are immediate (food) and long-term (shelter). Please help if you can. The war is out of our hands, but together we can help put a meal on their plates and a roof overhead.


Sandra Kelly Klassen is a Williams Lake resident still hung up on the notion of being a spy or a private investigator. But she can barely go five minutes without seeing her grandchildren so these pursuits are out of the question!


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