Despite uncertainties, Polish authorities help Ukrainian refugees integrate

It serves as his oasis of peace. Alina Dukhonchenko gestures for people to enter her three-story cube house from her bedroom window. The Polish countryside of Jakubowizna receives the winter sun’s final afternoon rays. In March 2022, this Ukrainian mother and her daughter Polina sought safety in this village, one hour from Warsaw. Three o’clock had come and gone. The fireplace comes to life. It’s when the kids get home from school,” Alina explains. The stairs, which creaks under their feet, erupts with toddler laughing. Polina and Alina do not live by themselves.

The NGO Fundacja Otwarty Dialog established the “Home of Independent Moms,” where Alina is staying with six other mothers and twelve children who have fled Russian assault. Although two families have already returned to Ukraine, there used to be more of us living in the house, according to Alina. The 29-year-old divorcee, originally from Zaporijjia in southeast Ukraine, only imagines going back to fulfil her dream of “opening a centre for children with special needs,” a dream that the conflict has destroyed. She does not, however, believe that the Russian threat is acceptable; thus, leaving Poland any time soon is not an option.

The hostel is a testament to Poland’s comparatively successful reception of refugees a year after the war began. The young go to a Polish school some 20 kilometres away, along with thousands of other children around Poland. The six mothers, like the roughly 60% of Ukrainian refugees still living in Poland, were able to find employment. Due to widespread mobilisation, men between 18 and 60 are not permitted to leave the nation, primarily giving the exodus a feminine face.

Alina’s hastily packed baggage being placed on the ground in Jakubowizna was a coincidence. After escaping the explosives on March 4, 2022, she arrived at the Warsaw railway station confused. “We discovered this location ten days later with the aid of a volunteer, and it rapidly became my second home.

A new life in exile comes with some risks. “We work in the garden, cook, and clean together. As though nothing happened. Yet, nobody is certain of how long we will be able to stay here “She lifts. Because they are not currently paying rent, the tenants can “transfer a little money to [they’re] relatives who remained in Ukraine.”
Inna Martynova, nursing her infant Stepan, born six days before February 24, 2022, offensive, shares Alina’s room. This 33-year-old former hairdresser left her town that the Russian army had taken over in the spring and fled to Poland with her husband. She and Alina are roommates.

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The linguistic barrier gradually disappears after a few months because “Ukrainian and Polish have a certain proximity,” as Inna puts it. At the same time, one of their coworkers, Marina Riabinna, arrives at the door frame. She just concluded her shift at a grocery store outside of Warsaw, saying that “eight other Ukrainian women also work there” and that her “daughter can interact with his Polish colleagues” at school.

Polish cooperation

Invasion-era refugees from neighbouring Ukraine were welcomed into Poland from the very beginning. The 38 million-person nation of Central Europe has accepted more than eight million of them, making it the most welcoming nation in the region. They were given full access to the labour market, the healthcare and educational systems, as well as some social benefits, by the Polish government. But, according to numerous NGOs, civil society has embraced this favourable development head-on. The extraordinary Polish solidarity also included the tens of thousands of ordinary people who showed up at the stations indifferently to provide food or those who offered their homes for several weeks. Dominika Pszczókowska, a political scientist associated with the Center for Migration Research at the University of Warsaw, notes that nearly 80% of Poles claim to have helped war refugees “that research conducted by [son] centre reveals that half of the remaining war refugees in Poland are given a free housing. Help is still being provided, but the housing problem in the capital city of Poland has gotten worse since the war.

Agnieszka Kosowicz, head of Polskie Forum Migracyjne, a group that aids exiles, adds that tension between Poles and Ukrainians is starting to appear against a background of record inflation (17%). “The government has made numerous efforts to grant these individuals legitimate employment, but it is insufficient. Some refugees need help to meet their most basic requirements, such as housing. There need to be more childcare spaces, and single moms frequently struggle to support their families and children.
A year later, it must be acknowledged that Poland, a nation historically resistant to immigration, is still standing. There are currently about 950,000 Ukrainian refugees living in Poland. This does not include the more than a million-strong Ukrainian diaspora already residing in this nation before the war. Mme Pszczókowska acknowledges, “The migrants did not end up on the street; it went better than I anticipated. Even though “many of them continue their education online with the Ukrainian programme,” the study continues, Polish institutions have made preparations to welcome young Ukrainians.

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Suffering from exile

One of these civil society initiatives that have participated in the integration process is the Ukrainian House in Warsaw, which was founded in 2009 and operated under the auspices of the Nasz Wybór Foundation. The NGO’s offices, located in a quiet neighbourhood called Muranów, are housed in the corner of an apartment building. Over the past 12 months, people have come and gone from these offices in search of housing and employment. According to Valeriia Shakhunova, a recent addition to the team, “from about twenty employees before the war, we have expanded to about 200 personnel, and the offer of aid is as wide as the demands.”

One year later, the significant influx of new starts has decreased, just as it has dried up.”

Yet, Valeriia Shakhunova thinks that the main challenge is making long-term plans. Some people don’t necessarily want to learn the language in this location; instead, they want to get back home as quickly as possible, which may be complicated if the war persists.

The vast chamber in the middle was converted into an improvised floor on this gloomy afternoon. A group of women begin a play’s rehearsal. It will be staged in a few days by these aspiring actresses, who are all refugees.

Anna Michalova, 38, holding a text, “dreamed of doing theatre from a very young age.” She may “escape the cares of everyday life and meet women who live in a similar circumstance” through the activity. Her mother has been surviving off of odd jobs babysitting since last March. “Nothing to do with managing a network of restaurants in Ukraine, where I worked! His eyes become hazy when he starts talking about his previous life.

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Relieve the suffering of exile? The yellow and blue flag flying in the opposite direction identifies the colours of the Ukrainian school in Warsaw’s Ochota neighbourhood. Here, we live during the Ukrainian educational programme “while teaching the pupils Polish subjects,” according to the establishment’s 44-year-old director Oksana Kolesnyk, originally from Chernihiv. From the four corners of Ukraine, everyone from the teaching staff to the 270 students aged 8 to 17 has escaped the war started by Moscow. Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Zaporizhia, Mykolaiv There are as many genesis locations for experiences as for traumas.

Since the outset, Larysa Lybchenko, now in her sixties, has taught mathematics there. A method to rebuild after the ordeal for this refugee from Izioum, a city occupied by the military of Kyiv. “Despite having 42 years of experience, I have never worked in a setting like that. Working here is like a big, happy family, a type of shelter. The establishment, founded in April 2022, opened its doors quickly. Three psychologists quickly joined the group. “Director Kolesnyk emphasises that the topic of war is avoided as much as possible as bringing it up again can trigger painful memories. Giving these kids a taste of regular life is the aim.

Polina, 10, enjoys it. “Even though I like it better than my old Ukrainian school. Here, I have a lot of friends, “The young student appears discrete as she slips on her enormous checkered dress. But the pictures on the front wall of his classroom speak for themselves. When she looked down, she saw a woman with long blond hair holding a baby in her arms, covered in blood, thanks to the crimson blanket. The Russian flag-branded rockets began to rain down all around. The message on the image reads, “My Ukraine suffers so much! At the top right corner, the author signed her name as Polina.

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