Helping those in need

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine rages on, around 3 million people have fled Ukraine for safer countries. Nearly 2 million more have been displaced inside the country. It is a horrible humanitarian crisis, but were it not for the efforts of thousands upon thousands in neighboring countries, even more Ukranians would be in danger. One person who has extended a helping hand is Leon Tsoukernik, owner of King’s Resort in the Czech Republic, home of the World Series of Poker Europe.

As relayed by former poker pro Eugene Katchalov, who himself escaped the violence in Ukraine along with his wife and friends, Tsoukernik has provided housing for 500 Ukranian refugees. According to Katchalov (who was told by Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier), Tsoukernik rented out hotels in Marinske lázně, Czech Republic, which is in the far west of the country near the German border. He has paid for everyone’s stay, including meals.

Refugees can stay in the housing for at least one month, but Tsoukernik may extend the period “if needed” (and it likely will be for many/most). On top of all that, Katchalov said on Twitter, Tsoukernik has provided legal support so the Ukranians can more easily apply for refugee status, along with medical insurance and the promise of a job.

“I’m honestly speechless and can’t thank Leon enough for helping so many people during such extraordinarily times,” Katchalov wrote.

Katchalov posted a photo on Sunday of Tsoukernik speaking to a group of refugees:

Tense journey

Eugene Katchalov, as mentioned, is one of the 3 million people who has fled his home, hoping to return someday soon (he was born in Ukraine, lived most of his life in the United States, and moved back to Ukraine five years ago). His trek started shortly after Vladimir Putin’s invasion began, in late February. He, his wife, and some friends set out from a small town outside of the Kyiv, attempting to head west to Lviv and then on to Poland.

It was fairly smooth for a while, but after about half a day, the heavy traffic started as they encountered more people leaving the country. He had to go with an alternate plan, as well, as they found out Lviv was closed off, as were the suggested entries into Poland for U.S. citizens. Katchalov and his party detoured to Hungary; the entire trip took nearly two full days.

Katchalov said he has been staying in an Airbnb in the Czech Republic after originally escaping to Hungary. He and his wife have been using their social media clout – he is co-founder of the esports organization Qlash – to try to match refugees with people around Europe offering places to stay.

His wife’s family eventually got out of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine and it appears that they are staying in one of the hotels Leon Tsoukernik has made available.

Image credit: WPT via Flickr

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