after spending six months living together in the asylum center in usti nad labem, the 40-odd refugees who arrived in summer last year will soon move to their new homes in several towns across the czech republic.
with one exception, each family will move to a town where they will be the only burmese family. while this will no doubt help with their integration into czech society, as they will have only czech neighbours, colleagues, and friends, it will be difficult to be without a burmese community and support network. the refugees have had 600 hours of czech lessons, but they are of course not yet fluent in the language and this will initially affect the depth of relations they can establish with their new neighbours or schoolmates.
that being said, the refugees are heading to their new communities with a great attitude. last sunday, they organized a going-away ‘party’ for themselves, featuring prayer, song, and friendship, and all crowded into the TV room at the asylum center. very kindly, we were invited to join them. before a delicious burmese lunch, a member of each family spoke for a few minutes to the group on the times they have shared together so far and the challenges ahead – and how saying ‘dobry den’ and having a positive attitude will go a long way in easing the transition. everyone is really excited about moving to their own flat (which they have already visited), and feels strong and ready to start their new life. while my own move to the czech republic was in no way similar to theirs, i was able to say a few words on how, with time, they will feel at home in this country.