The integration of Ukrainian refugees
It seems like the entire world turned upside down in just three years. In the beginning, there was a global pandemic that caused distress and restlessness among the population; now, we are witnessing another global upheaval, namely the war between Ukraine and Russia that has already spanned half a year and gave rise to a massive quota of people who left the country seeking bearable conditions of living abroad. Nevertheless, adapting to a new country is not always the easiest thing to do, as behind the seemingly better standards of living, there is way more to take in to actually get the feeling that you are part of the community. But, my question is: "Did the Ukrainians succeed to integrate into the new countries they arrived to or there were certain predicaments that impeded their adherence to the community?"
Given that my home country is Romania, I can not deny the fact that I may be quite biased when writing about the whole situation revolving around the Ukrainian refugees and the way they actually got integrated here,but I will do my best in order to provide a sincere article.
Taking Jill Biden's word, Romania seems like an ideal country for refugees to rebound and find their inner peace after such a harsh period. In fact, the first lady admires the genuine kindness that sets apart Romanian people; they do not shrink when they know their help is much needed, offering shelter, food, and clothing. Besides, even the teachers persistently strive to be a ray of sunshine in the gloomy lives of Ukranians' children. Nevertheless, in reality, all the efforts do not actually translate into Ukrainians living happily ever after here in Romania, as it often happens in fairy tales, because " Money makes the world go round", as Liza Minnelli once said. Yes, everything comes down to money, more specifically to the Romanian economy that does not match Ukrainians' expectations. Even though it may seem that Romania owns a way better economy compared to Ukraine, the reality is quite different.
Even though the salaries may be quite similar, the point is that the prices are not even quite close. The situation may not be the same everywhere, but certain big companies from Romania do not actually satisfy the needs of the refugees, who find the wages quite disappointing, when faced with the high prices in the shops. Moreover, the refugees were offered accommodation for their families from the early beginning, meaning that the only expenditures they had to cover were just related to basic purchases for food and hygiene products. Obviously, the press does not reveal such situations because Romania needs to keep up appearances, but they still exist and can be quite a daunting task to tackle them right now
Poland is the country that shelters the highest number of Ukrainian refugees among all the states, meaning at the same time a bigger responsibility for authorities, who work hard to make Ukrainians' staying here in Poland as welcoming as possible by providing access to health and employment. Also,12 Blue Dot Safe Spaces are spread throughout Poland, providing citizens with much-needed psychological support in order to overcome the hard times that they had to go through without notice. Needless to say that just a good planning will not always render the ideal way towards actually fostering a feeling of belonging for Ukrainians. The point is that, given the fact that by law a great part of Ukrainian men were kept in Ukraine in order to fight for the future of their country, women and children had to leave the country and survive on their own in a new state. But problems arose as polish men took advantage of this situation by sexually abusing young girls who seemed vulnerable due to the emotional distress and bewildering state caused by the war. One case was the one of a 16-year-old girl who was allegedly raped by a polish man. This is just one of the thousands of cases that are still in the shadow and will probably still stay like this. The point is that when a country gets such a huge cohort of vulnerable people who need money and assistance immediately, there will always be a high risk. Moreover, concerns are growing over how to protect the most vulnerable refugees from being targeted by human traffickers or becoming victims of other forms of exploitation, but no matter what this kind of situations will still persist in my opinion because there is nothing one can do in order to prevent it from happening. Also, it is obvious that Ukrainian refugees will never be seen as polish counterparts no matter what, therefore the degree of injustices against Ukrainians will maintain at a higher rate compared to the Polish population. This is a fact, so all they can do is just try to diminish them by monitoring each volunteer that is willing to help the Ukrainians.
Related to the topic I have a true story I want to share. A few months ago, at midnight, I was waiting in front of the Rotterdam train station for an Uber I had ordered. Suddenly, a man randomly approached me in the street asking about where I am heading. I was trying to ditch him, so I said that I am waiting for a taxi. Then, he proceeded and asked me where I am from. I tried not to give out too much information about me, so I said that I am from Spain, which was not the best choice because he was actually able to speak Spanish. He realized that I was lying, so he continued and asked me whether I am from Ukraine and he proposed to give me a ride, but fortunately the uber arrived and I jumped right in it. He just got scared and ran afterward.
The takeaway from this story is that I could've been a target of human trafficking just in one split second, but why? The answer is simple: because he was thinking that I was a vulnerable refugee from Ukraine who nobody would ever bother to search for. So, all over Europe, there will be an assiduous hunt for Ukrainian refugees.
Germany, the largest economy in Europe, is another country that accommodates Ukrainians, but does that mean that Ukrainians live up to the same standards as the germans? The simple answer is NO. Now the next question is:" Why?".
The point is that, regardless of their qualifications, they do not benefit from the same job prospects as the germans because the degrees they accomplished in their home country are not recognized here, meaning that they have to settle for jobs below their level of competence. It's no rocket science to actually realize that the salaries will not assure the Ukrainians a decent living here in Germany. Moreover, another impediment in their integration here is represented by their inability to speak English, as most of them were taught only Russian while in school. Another point is that most industries even though may find one Ukrainian refugee the perfect match for a better position in a company could simply reject him because of their urge to keep the high-skilled people in the long run, which otherwise will not be the case because most Ukrainians will return home once the war is over.
To sum up, maybe Germany seemed like the best destination for Ukrainians, but looking at the diversity of issues that they encountered, not even Germany could be described as one of the most welcoming countries for refugees.
Even though the refugees are giving their best in order to adapt to the new countries they ended up in, there is no pre-crafted way in order to make it happen. Therefore, they have to envisage the possible issues that could arise along the way and prevent them, but as I already displayed through my article, the problems will still be present and can not be tackled overnight. Therefore, even though the Ukrainians try to become part of the community, it is hard to actually feel like belonging there when nothing seems to fall into place.