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Upmarket Swiss hotel welcomes Ukrainian refugees

The four-star SeePark Hotel in the lakeside town of Murten in western Switzerland has opened its doors to refugees from the war in Ukraine. They get to stay for free in rooms that would normally cost more than CHF200 ($214) a night.  

This content was published on April 11, 2022 - 14:00

The hotel is owned by a limited company of ethnic Russians based in western Europe. The hotel director, who did not wish to be named, is Belgian. The hotel administrator, Ukrainian-born Lyudmyla Rigert, persuaded the director to help her compatriots fleeing the war. They also received support from other Ukrainians living in the Murten area who provided food, clothing and transportation for the refugees.

The hotel managers personally collected people from the railway station and gave them breakfast. They rigged up a kitchen in a rooftop room with a view of the lake. Extra beds were added to rooms to accommodate families. So far, 200 refugees from Ukraine have stayed in the hotel.

Escape stories

Rigert is looking after her sister’s family in exile at her home in Estavayer. Irina Rossa was in tears as she described how they had to quickly vacate their home in a suburb of Kyiv, leaving everything behind. She hopes to return as soon as possible and is worried about the family members she left behind. Meanwhile she is helping other refugees at the SeePark Hotel.

SWI swissinfo.ch also spoke to hotel resident Liza, who is 22. Her family escaped an attack on Kramatorsk in Donbass and made it safely to Poland. Liza left her family there and undertook a long and challenging journey to Switzerland, which she had heard was safe and welcomed refugees. Both Irina and Liza said they were still in shock and not yet able to appreciate the beauty of the place they had landed in.

More than 25,000 refugees from Ukraine have now been officially registered in Switzerland, and about 20,000 have been granted so-called S status protection permits. These allow refugees to live and work in Switzerland for a year with an option to extend if necessary.

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