Ukrainian refugee integration center opens in Old Rīga

Take note – story published 1 year ago

A place to meet Ukrainians living in Riga, to eat borscht or teach a word in Latvian to refugee children. The Ukrainian Refugee Support and Integration Center, “The Heart of Riga” (Rīgas sirds) has started work in the city council building, Latvian Television reported on April 26.

Every day there are still new war refugees arriving in Latvia, and places to meet their own and locals provide invaluable emotional support.

In the town hall premises, where there used to be a café, the atmosphere is like a decent apartment – music in the living room, children play games on the computer, while the kitchen has dinner.

Ukrainian Anna has lived in Latvia for a year. Work helps her not think about home. “You'll be able to come here, eat some borscht, attend classes lessons, and just talk. With Ukrainians, with locals. We would particularly like to meet and find new friends. I have things to do and it helps. I see smiles and happy children's faces,” she said.

3-year-old Polina and her mom Anna are from Mariupol. She does volunteer work in this center. “It's a very good idea that we'll be in the center of Riga now. Already last week, people walked by and just came in. Look at it. Good place and right choice!” Anna said.

Both the Ukrainian center “Common Ground” from Andrejsala and other organizations have moved here.

Inese Dābola, founder of the Common Ground Society, said: “On Saturdays, there is the largest number of people. Children want activities, forget about war. If anyone thinks the flow of refugees to Latvia has stopped – no. There are still new arrivals every day."

Goods with Ukrainian symbolism can also be purchased here to support artists and donate.

Beāte Bēvalde, representative of the Society “Your Friends”, said: “All kinds of things created in Ukraine and Latvia, things, pins, T-shirts, sweaters, so that when we wear them, we can express our support for Ukraine.”

Riga Mayor Mārtiņš Staķis said: “We are just offering space, but from the point of view of the Riga City Council, we seem to need more life in Riga, also in this building.”

Every day there are Latvian language lessons, and representatives of the association invite anyone who can teach Latvian to adults or children to apply.

There is also a little boy among the many visitors. He tells LTV that Ukraine will soon win the war because of his strong dad at war. The boy's mum confesses she can't tell her son dad is no longer alive. But they have to live on, and places like the center help.

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