PRAGUE ( Associated Press) – This is Radio Ukraine calling.
A new Prague-based internet radio station has started broadcasting news, information and music tailored to the daily worries of some 300,000 Ukrainian refugees who have arrived in the Czech Republic since Russia launched its military attack on Ukraine.
In a studio in the heart of the Czech capital, radio veterans work with absolute beginners to provide the refugees with what they need to know to settle in a new country as smoothly as possible.
The staff of 10 combines people who have fled Ukraine in recent weeks with those who have been living abroad for years. No matter who they are, their common goal is to help fellow Ukrainians and their homeland facing the brutal Russian invasion.
Natalia Churikova, an experienced journalist at Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty in Prague, said she could not say no to an offer to become the broadcaster’s editor-in-chief.
“It was for my people. For people who really needed help, who really needed support, something that would help them start a new life or start their lives here after living through many bad things to try to escape from Ukraine, Said Churikova.
Staff member Sofia Tatomyr is one of those who left to escape the war. The 22-year-old from the western town of Kalush was making plans to move to another city in Ukraine when a friend called one morning: “Sofia, the war has just started.”
Her parents and older brother preferred to stay at home, but they wanted her to join her aunt in Prague.
“It happened suddenly,” she said. She boarded a bus alone in Cherniutsi and arrived 28 hours later in the Czech capital, a city she had never visited.
“When I was already abroad, I remember the moment I cried and I tried to buy a ticket and I could not spell which ticket I needed. It was really difficult, “she said.
Tatomyr worked as a graphic designer and singer in Ukraine after obtaining a degree as a publisher and media editor. Radio broadcasting was part of her college education. To her surprise, her aunt’s brother received an announcement about works for a new Ukrainian radio station.
She said she needed some time to understand that not everyone can be at the forefront of the war and that everyone should do what he or she can do best.
“So this is how I cheer myself up: that I do my profession, that I do what I can do best, and that’s the best way I can help our people, I can help Ukraine,” she said.
Safe in Prague, she was still trying to process the invasion in her homeland.
“It’s awful,” she said. “I still can not find a logical explanation for what they do and why they do it. In the 21st century, a war? Why? We were a peaceful nation. “
Another broadcaster, Marharyta Golobrodska, was working as a copywriter for a software company when she received a call from Churikova, whom she knew from an internship at Radio Free Europe.
“I thought the people who get up early were crazy when they were ready to work from 6am, but that’s what I do now and I thoroughly enjoy it,” Golobrodska said. “This is what I have always wanted to do, to be helpful to my country, even though I live so far away.”
For 12 hours every weekday – and 11 hours on weekends – Radio Ukraine plays Ukrainian and Western music while presenting news about Ukraine and the Czech Republic every 15 minutes, along with information for refugees. This includes details on where they can get the documents they need from local authorities, how to get a job or medical treatment, or how to get a place for children at schools. Children can also listen to Ukrainian fairy tales.
Golobrodska, a native of the southern city of Mykolaiv, has been living in the Czech Republic for eight-and-a-half years. After the raid, she traveled to western Ukraine to meet her mother and 9-year-old sister and drive them to safety. In Prague, she involved them in her broadcast.
“For example, my mother told me she would like to hear what she is not supposed to do here. “For example, that she can not park the car where she wants, as in Ukraine,” she said.
Bohemia Media, which operates several radio stations in the Czech Republic, came up with the idea to launch the station. It provided a studio and its people worked with the Ukrainian embassy, the local Ukrainian community and others to make it a reality in just three weeks. It also covers the salaries.
Lukas Nadvornik, the director of the project, said the plan is that the station will remain on the air for as long as necessary. The key task for now is to let as many potential listeners as possible know of its existence.
One of them is Sophia Medvedeva. The 23-year-old web designer could not hold back tears as she spoke about her recent six-day trip with her mother and younger brother from Mykolaiv to Krakow, Poland.
But in Prague she joined her fiancé and Radio Ukraine helped her adjust to a new life.
“I am so amazed at the chance to listen to Ukrainian music when I am not in my homeland. I feel I am not alone, ”she said. Her only recommendation for it is to invite a psychologist to “advise Ukrainian refugees on how to fight the survivor syndrome and how to fight depression.”
Follow the Associated Press’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.