Some Ukrainian refugees are finding jobs in Eastern Europe, while others are moving further west

FILE PHOTO: People fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine arrive at a border checkpoint in Kroscienko
FILE PHOTO: Refugees crossing the border from Ukraine into Poland arrive at a reception point fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the border checkpoint in Kroscienko, Poland March 17, 2022. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

March 18, 2022

By Mari Saito, Jan Lopatka and Supantha Mukherjee

PRZEMYSL, Poland/PRAGUE/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Some Ukrainian refugees who have fled to nearby countries in Europe are beginning to find work, while others are looking to move further west as the war in their home country enters its fourth week and the number of those displaced continues to rise.

Nearly 3.3 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on February 24, UN data showed, while artillery shells and rockets pounded cities and towns, even hitting relatively safe ports like Lviv near the Polish border. Russia denies attacks on civilians.

Thousands of Eastern Europeans have opened their homes to the refugees, including many women and children, as Ukraine is forced to keep men of draft age while schools and employers increasingly try to integrate the newcomers.

And there is a need for labor in countries like Poland and Slovakia, which have struggled with labor shortages for years amid strong economic growth, aging populations and some citizens migrating to Western Europe in search of better-paying jobs.

Dani Kolsky and his wife co-own a coffee importing and roasting company and a number of coffee shops in the Czech Republic, where new laws will allow Ukrainian refugees to enter the workforce.

He is already training many Ukrainians and plans to hire about 20 when the new rules come into effect.

“It’s an entry-level job. Many are teachers or musicians, they may move on in a few weeks if they find something better,” he said.

“But at least they have something to start with.”

A survey of Czech companies found that 72% were willing to hire Ukrainian workers if possible.


While the Czech Republic can benefit from low unemployment and thousands of vacancies, the relatively small size of the economies of Eastern and Central Europe compared to the scale of the Ukrainian exodus means opportunities may still be limited.

Tamara Zaviriuha, 28, arrived in the middle of the night with her three young children after fleeing Kyiv at the train station in Przemysl, a town near Poland’s busiest border crossing and a major transit hub for refugees.

She wore an oversized pink hoodie and carried two heavy bags. She said she originally planned to stay in Poland to be closer to Ukraine and her husband, who stayed behind to fight, but felt compelled to change plans.

“I wanted to stay close, but we heard there wasn’t enough space or work in Poland,” she said as she waited outside the train station for a ride to Warsaw, where she plans to apply for a visa to Canada .

“I don’t know anyone there and it’s further from home, but I think even with minimum wage there, my kids will have a better life,” she said.

But most refugees will probably stay in Europe.

EU countries have agreed to make it easier for refugees to access jobs, schools, health and social services, although legislative processes in Europe are progressing at different speeds.

Almost 190,000 Ukrainians have now reached Germany, Europe’s largest economy, in what Chancellor Olaf Scholz described as a “big, big challenge” for the authorities.

Sweden, like Germany a key destination during the 2015 Syrian refugee crisis, expects the arrival of up to 212,000 Ukrainians in the coming months.

Outside the Migration Board’s office in the Stockholm suburb of Sundbyberg, hundreds of Ukrainians waited in a line that had been winding around the block for several days to register and thus gain access to state support measures.

Volunteers like Malin Aronsson, pastor of a nearby church, have been doing their best to help the refugees, many of whom have arrived with few belongings and little money.

“We’ve gathered a large number of volunteers to be in that line and just provide lots of love, coffee, tea, sandwiches and supplies that they need for the first few days,” she said.

“It’s crazy.”

(Additional reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm and Robert Muller and Jan Lopatka in Prague; Writing by Niklas Pollard; Editing by Gareth Jones) Some Ukrainian refugees are finding jobs in Eastern Europe, while others are moving further west

Bobby Allyn

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