Everything is cancelled, no rules apply. I would not wish that feeling on anyone.


Eighteen-year-old Solomyia Strelbytska is one of the first graduates of the Stand By Me voluntary buddy up programme as she works towards completing her Gold Award. However, just a few years ago, Solomyia found herself in an unimaginable situation that would alter the course of her life. Forced to uproot due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, Solomyia, who is currently pursuing her studies at the Pavel Tigrid Language Grammar School, had the opportunity to help found the first Ukrainian Scout centre in Ostrava, Czech Republic. A dream come true for Solmyia who hails from a family of Scouts. During this time, she had an encounter with The Duke of Edinburgh, Patron of the International Award, amidst the picturesque gardens of the British Embassy in Prague.

This interview offers a glimpse into Solomyia’s journey, brought to you by the Award in the Czech Republic.

What did you chose for each section of your Gold Award?

As part of the Physical Recreation section, I focused on Archery, and as part of the Skills section, I chose creative writing in six languages. I decided for the Voluntary Service to join the Stand by Me programme and help found the first Ukrainian Scout centre in Ostrava, which today has 15 members. I come from a family with a long scout history, so I was very proud to be a part of its creation and the regular events we organise.

Why did you choose to volunteer for Stand By Me?

I moved to the Czech Republic with my family in 2019, and this was no easy life change. I still remember being lost, not knowing the language and was far away from everything I knew. It is hard to describe the feeling. I was so confused when everything changed from day to day. Everythingis cancelled, no rules apply. I would not wish that feeling on anyone who moved to the Czech Republic. So as soon as my teachers, Mrs Demlová and Mrs Hrbáčová, who work as Award Coordinators at our Grammar School, offered me to participate in the Stand By Me buddy program to make friends with new students from Ukraine, I didn´t hesitate. This programme also helped me gain more confidence, strength and motivation to continue to help the Ukrainian community and realise my three-year-old dream of establishing a Ukrainian Scout centre.


What did the Stand By Me programme look like?

Together with my best friend Barča, we connected with Ira from Mukačevo and with Dáša from Kyjev, who were just new to the school and struggled with the Czech language and the new school environment. First, we participated in the programme as pairs, but then we ended up meeting up as a group of four. We mentored the girls in our free time. We motivated them to take part in consultation hours so that they would catch up on studying material. Together, we decided on a mini project which was to create a Czech-Ukrainian dictionary for Geography. We also introduced the girls to our friends so that they would find new friends at school.

What have you accomplished together?

We ended up not only doing a geography dictionary, but we created one for most subjects. The girls made so much progress, which showed on their result charts. They used to struggle with some subjects, so we spent three hours preparing for a physics test. Now when I see the grades, I am very proud. The Buddy Up programme persuaded them to stay here and continue to study. They have so many opportunities here, they are welcome here, and they found many friends.

What did you take away from the Voluntary Service?

I think the most valuable thing to gain at our age is experience. My participation in this programme helped me work on my leadership, communication, and flexibility skills to accommodate challenges and handle the unexpected. I think the biggest experience for me was the opportunity to meet the Patron of the International Award, HRH Prince Edward, in Prague and talk to him about my Award experience and Stand By Me. It was great to see how excited he was, and we agreed that we look forward to the Buddy Up programme being spread to other countries.

What is your message to anyone hesitating to participate in the Stand By Me programme?

Definitely do it. It is a unique opportunity which will change your life and the lives of your peers. This programme is great, not only for foreigners but for anyone who changes schools. It makes everything easier.

Stand By Me is a ground-breaking partnership, which sees The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award in the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia partner with UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, on a two-year project to provide vital support to young people who have been displaced or impacted by the war in Ukraine.  

Find out more here: Stand By Me Hub – Intaward