Café opens as a meeting place Refugees from Ukraine meet compatriots and othere people from Bonn

Bonn · The newly opened café in Brüdergasse should to help all people with Ukrainian roots living in Bonn meet each other. There will be music and literature on the opening day and at the weekly events.

 Together in the café: Sophie, co-initiator Christian van den Kerckhoff, Pavlo Hrosul (Bonn-Ukraine Solidarity Initiative), Hlona Fostaschouk and Vira Schmied (from left)

Together in the café: Sophie, co-initiator Christian van den Kerckhoff, Pavlo Hrosul (Bonn-Ukraine Solidarity Initiative), Hlona Fostaschouk and Vira Schmied (from left)

Foto: Sebastian Flick

Veronika Prognimak was highly motivated: "I am here because I want to help," she says. The 17-year-old student was at the opening of the Ukrainian-language café "Shevchenko at Beethoven" at the intercultural meeting place Migrapolis on Saturday evening. Veronika grew up in Bonn, her family was born in Ukraine, and the student speaks both German and Ukrainian fluently.

The newly opened café in Brüdergasse wants to help people with Ukrainian roots who are living in Bonn to meet each other – those who have lived here for many years or even their whole lives and those who have been stranded in Bonn in recent weeks because of the war in their homeland. "Many people my age come here at the moment. It’s a foreign country for them with a foreign language. Maybe I can help them integrate," says Prognimak.

Cultural bridging is already in the name

There will be many encounters in the coming weeks. "Here, people who have fled Ukraine meet people who can reach out to them," says Christian van den Kerckhoff, Managing Director of the Bonn Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Learning. The Institute sponsors the Migrapolis House and it set up the café "Shevchenko at Beethoven" (the name stands for a cultural bridge) together with the Initiative Solidarität Ukraine Bonn. Paul Hrosul, the initiative’s chairperson, had presented the idea of the café to Kerckhoff, whereupon the Institute organised the premises.

There was a colourful cultural programme at the café’s official opening, that was hosted by Tanja Dobrushina. The Ukrainian-born educator and writer has lived in Germany for 20 years. "There’ll be many Ukrainian surprises for the visitors tonight," she revealed at the beginning of the event.

Programme for adults and children

The first surprise came a short time later when Christoph Müller played the Ukrainian national anthem on the saxophone. In addition to music, the evening also focused on literature: Dobrushina recited her own poems as well as poems by famous Ukrainian poets. While during the rest of the evening the adults were able to exchange ideas with each other, the youngest visitors enjoyed various creative activities on the upper floor of Migrapolis. The evening ended with Ukrainian folk songs, with all visitors joining in.

Hlona Fostaschouk came to the opening of the café with Vira Schmied: "We have been friends for over 30 years. Fate had separated us again and again, but we stayed in touch," Schmied, who lives in Bonn, said. Three weeks ago, Hlona Fostaschouk had left her home, which had become a war zone. She and her eleven-year-old daughter had fled from Kiev via Romania and Hungary to Germany. The gruelling journey took three days.

Vira Schmied was waiting for them in Bonn. Fostaschouk's daughter Sophie quickly found a place at a girls' school where she has already made some friends. She is also learning the German language very quickly. Sophie would like to stay here. Maybe Veronika Prognimak can give her some more advice about life in Bonn. Veronika has already been able to help another girl who fled from Ukraine: "My best friend has a Ukrainian classmate. We have already invited her to our house and now the three of us always do something together."

The café "Shevchenko at Beethoven's" is now welcoming guests at Migrapolis, Brüdergasse 18 once a week. There will always be some form of entertainment and the next dates: 17/24/30 April and 8/15/22/29 May.

In addition, the Initiative Solidarität Bonn Ukraine (SoliBU) organised a rally on the market square in Bonn on Sunday afternoon. According to the police, around 450 people took part, including many refugees from Ukraine. "We condemn the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine in the strongest possible terms. We are witnessing a blatant breach of international law and war crimes in the middle of Europe," the initiators announced. They called on the Russian government to immediately cease all attacks, withdraw from Ukraine and recognise the country’s sovereignty. The demonstrators also called for European cohesion. "We must introduce an embargo of coal, oil and gas," the movement said.

Original article: Sebastian Flick

Translation: Jean Lennox

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