Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war to the Czech Republic got a fresh morale booster this week as a new radio station based in Prague started offering broadcasts in Ukrainian.
The new channel called Radio Ukrajina broadcasts news, tips for refugees, music and fairy tales for children, as well as spiritual comfort passed on by Ukrainian churches.
Run by the Media Bohemia group comprising several radio stations, it broadcasts from an office building in central Prague via a mobile app and on the internet.
“It’s a solidarity radio,” said on-air manager Natalia Churikova, who spent 27 years working for the Prague-based, US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
“We are targeting Ukrainian war refugees who have moved here and trying to give them information they need to start a new life here before they can go back home, which we hope will eventually happen,” she told AFP.
The Czech Republic has received more than 300,000 refugees since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
A graphic artist and singer, Sofia Tatomyr left Ukraine for Prague two days later following an invitation by her worried aunt who lives in Prague.
The 22-year-old, hailing from the western Ukrainian city of Kalush is working for the radio as a presenter, a “dream job” for her.
“It is my first time in Prague. It came all of a sudden and I just ended up here, working for the radio, doing my best to help Ukrainians with what I can do best,” Tatomyr said.
Her family helped her find the job owing to an ad posted on the internet.
“I have to communicate and interact with our listeners,” said Tatomyr, one of Radio Ukrajina’s 10 employees, who wants the radio to boost ties between Czechs and Ukrainians.
Ukrainians already formed the largest minority in the Czech Republic before the war, comprising some 200,000 people.
Following the influx of refugees, the public Czech Television started offering its evening news in a Ukrainian version, while Czech Radio transmits live broadcasts by Ukraine’s public radio channel.
Churikova said Radio Ukrajina’s chief goal was to help the refugees feel more at home in the foreign country.
“Czech people help a lot, but when… someone talks to you in Ukrainian and plays you a Ukrainian song, it will make your heart feel warm,” she said.
Churikova said she saw the radio, which launched Tuesday, as a medium taking listeners by the hand and accompanying them all day long.
“No other medium will create this mood, encourage you, make you think, and entertain you at the same time,” she said outside the small studio with tables for two presenters and a Ukrainian flag on the wall.
“The mood is really nice here, and we’re trying to pass it on to the people who have experienced terrible things and now they need to calm down and start a new life.”