Slovakia – Salesians in Gabčíkove, giving refugee children a chance to feel like children again

23 June 2022

(ANS - Gabčíkove) - Gabčíkove is a small village 50 km from the Salesian Provincial House in Bratislava. The government has set up a facility there to house refugees from Ukraine. There are currently about a thousand of them, many of them children and teenagers. They are the poorest of the refugees: they have no relatives or contacts abroad, they cannot afford apartments in the cities. They are just the kind of people who need some new "Don Bosco" among them.

At the Gabčíkove facility, Slovak authorities provide food, medical care, and other necessities, and school-age children attend state schools. But the Salesians are also there and cooperate, offering what the government cannot offer, especially to children and young people. Salesians organize and train volunteers for a wide variety of activities for the long hours of "free time."

Like a typical summer oratory, there is everything: moving around the lawn in the open air, on one side children are playing soccer, on the other, some boys are setting up a volleyball court by hoisting a net; in one corner some children are playing individually with hula-hoops or constructions; in another, a little girl is practicing braiding her hair with the hair of a patient animator... And meanwhile, two boys are playing together: both Ukrainian-speaking and one Russian-speaking, they have no trouble understanding each other and having fun together.

If the rain comes, no problem: they move to the indoor halls, maybe even change the activities and sports, but the fun and lightheartedness typical of those who should never be confronted with problems like war remain. So here are those who practice some yoga, those who do gymnastics, those who roller-skate, etc.

And for these children and young people forced to run away from home, to cross their country by makeshift means, to stand in long lines at the borders, to remain only with the little they had on them and at most a bag or a backpack, here too, the possibility of feeling safe, of having friends, of playing, of growing, of developing their talents opens... In short, of being happy.

At Gabčíkove, Salesians and volunteers work to make Don Bosco's dream come true: that of seeing children happy in time and eternity.


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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