“Everything is strange today. I remember the days when I got one potato, while Ukrainians took away full bags of food,” complains a man in his fifties standing in line in front of the food bank’s dispensary in Cejlo, Brno.
He points to the dispensary window, covered with a shiny film. “They even blocked it here so we couldn’t see what the Ukrainian bags look like,” he claims.
After a few minutes, it’s his turn and he’s carrying a bag full of groceries. The size corresponds to those that Ukrainians receive half an hour later.
The management of the food bank admits the differences in the packages after questions from the editors, but according to them, the opposite is true with the contents of the packages. “We try to leave more durable food for Czech clients,” says project manager Olga Selucká.
“Of course, we always try to have enough for everyone, we don’t want to leave Ukrainians behind,” emphasizes Pavel Kosorin, Director of the Food Bank for Brno and the South Moravian Region. “However, there is never enough of all the food and we are here for Czech citizens first, so we take that into account when distributing,” he says. “But there is always enough bread, fruit and vegetables for everyone,” he assures.
Two fronts as prevention
Two queues form in front of the dispensary every day. First up are the Czechs, who prove themselves with confirmations from the municipality. After them come people from Ukraine, for whom a visa is enough.
People in the Bronx of Brno, as the area around Cejlo is called, are convinced that Czechs are shortened. “Czechs and Roma are given dry old bread, vegetables, one bag. Ukrainians two bags and everything fresh, I tried it myself. They split the release time so that we don’t see how it differs,” one of the local women told Seznam Zprávám earlier.
According to the bank’s management, the division of Czech and Ukrainian clients is a preventive measure.
As Nauzal reported earlier, there is tension between the two communities. And the rumors that the food bank is giving more to the people of Ukraine do not help to calm things down.
Cohabitation on Cejla
Dispensary employees state that there is a difference, for example, in the issue of meat or other food, which is not enough. For example, Ukrainians often pack more bread, which is almost always enough.
“They brought us maybe thirty packs of minced meat, some sausages, sausages, chicken and the like. We will first divide them among the Czech bags, as fairly as we can. And if there is any left over, we also put it among the Ukrainian bags,” explains Denisa Chromá, head of the dispensary.
A brick of ham
In the room where they prepare the packages, there are about a hundred bags. According to the workers, today’s shipment is weaker, because each day is different depending on what the food bank takes from the stores and what it delivers from the central warehouse.
The paper bags are about three-quarters full. You can find bread, vegetables and packages of meat in them. In those that stand aside and are intended for Ukrainians, meat is missing. However, larger pieces of vegetables, pumpkin, kohlrabi and the like stand out from them.
As they are not allowed to process food in the dispensary, i.e. not even open and divide a pack of 20 sausages, absurd situations sometimes occur, according to dispensary employees. “Once we had to throw an entire brick of ham into someone’s bag,” they recall.
However, according to the employees, this can also be a reason that incites disagreements. “But some people will always complain,” they agree.
They say they don’t hear complaints from Ukrainians. “They are grateful to get anything at all,” explains Žeňa, a Ukrainian woman who used to stand in line by herself. For the past few months, she has been volunteering at the drop-off point and giving out Ukrainian bags.
According to her, food aid for Ukrainians will be needed more in the future, in connection with the latest version of the Lex Ukraine law, which made it more difficult for refugees to access humanitarian benefits and related contributions.
You don’t have to call the police
A more tense atmosphere prevails especially in the Czech front, where there are also verbal fights about who is overtaking. However, everyone receives a bag with groceries, as opposed to proof with a signed document from the municipality.
“Problems for which we would have to call the police do not happen,” says Pavel Chromý, one of the workers who distribute food aid. It is said that in most cases it is enough to exit the dispensary towards the queue. Sometimes the negotiators have to separate from each other. “Even that is rare,” he claims.
People from Ukraine gather at the food bank already at the time of distribution for the Czechs, but they stand in smaller groups further away. These are mainly mothers with children and older women.
When their time comes, they flock to the ticket window and compete for both bags and numbered tickets. They ensure that they receive the bag as a matter of priority the next day. The management of the bank approached this system to ensure that everyone would have a chance to receive food aid, even if not every day.
The Ukrainian front then breaks up and redistribution takes place – people change the contents of their bags so that everyone takes what they want and need the most. Since the verification is done only with a visa, the people from the food bank do not know exactly who the Ukrainian package is going to, or how many people may be dependent on it.
According to the Chromy couple, working in a food bank is often demanding. “Over time, however, we managed to gain people’s respect and educate them a bit, it’s always better that way,” they agree.
You can see it when they go through the queue, calm down any conflicts and exchange a few words with the clients. They ask about health, life and relatives. They know many of them by name and can direct even those who, for example, do not have a valid certificate to the relevant authorities.
Even the clients themselves acknowledge their work with gratitude. “Mr. Chromý is very kind, when it was hot, he gave out lemonades, he is always interested,” says Šárka Šenková, for example.
The management praises the functioning of the employees and volunteers, who are both Czechs from the majority, as well as Roma and Ukrainians. “It is important for us that we hire without discrimination, and I must say that our employees do a really great job and the collective works without any problems,” praises Pavel Kosorin. However, he admits that the tension between the groups reflects the overall setting of society.