Sarka and Angus Grundy agreed to help a refugee family for six months and became close friends with a Syrian couple and their daughter.
The two couples met through a programme sponsored by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, which pairs Czech volunteers with refugees who need help learning the ropes in their new country.
“This has become a real friendship,” says Sarka. The original agreement was for her to help Syrian refugees Farid* and Wafa* and their daughter Hiba for six months but now, long past beyond the allotted time, she jokes: “No one can stop us being friends.”
Volunteers help refugees navigate their way through the bureaucracy and learn Czech ways of doing things, but Sarka says this family has needed little practical assistance.
Farid and Wafa are not the real names of the Syrian couple in their thirties. They have been in the Czech Republic for almost five years but are still reluctant to disclose their identities, fearing reprisals against relatives in Syria.
“When a refugee or asylum-seeker comes here, he may find a job but it is always below our level.” says Farid.
He has learned Czech but his professional qualifications from Syria are not recognized, so he works on a factory production line. “We want to become like ordinary people,” says Farid. Ordinary people with some very good Czech friends.
* Names changed for protection reasons