Ukraine Six years ago, Ukrainians began to move west en masse, with no end in sight: “The change was pretty dramatic”

The migration of Ukrainians to work in Poland is one of the largest recent migrations in Europe. It began to accelerate in 2014, when the war in eastern Ukraine collapsed the economy. Some returned home with the coronavirus epidemic, but many want to return, although living and working in Poland is not always easy.

Lviv / Kiev

All did not go according to plan when the Lviv nurse Veronika Tarasenko moved to Poland in 2018.

Tarasenko’s idea, who had worked in the power department for a long time, was to quickly legalize his qualifications and start working in his own field. There is a shortage of nurses in Poland.

“It wasn’t that simple. I graduated so long ago that my studies took less time than is now required in the EU. Additional studies, internships and language courses should have been completed. It would have taken 2.5 to 3 years. ”

Tarasenko could not afford to throw himself into being a full-time student for years. So he went to work at a washing machine factory in Łódź.

Ukrainians moving to work in Poland is one of the largest migrations in Europe.

There are no exact figures, as some go to Poland only for short work gigs and some work in the dark. Estimates vary, but it is estimated that 1.5 to 2 million Ukrainians work in Poland each year.

For Poland, the Ukrainian workforce is important, as it has replaced Poles who have moved to other parts of the EU and helped sustain economic growth. The Polish Government has also welcomed it, although it is critical of other immigration.

In practice, many Ukrainians are doing work that Poles do not want. Their position is also weaker than that of Poles working in other EU countries. Underpayment and other injustices therefore often only need to be swallowed up.

In Ukraine, on the other hand, there has been a growing concern about brain drain, with more young and highly educated people leaving in recent years. Indeed, the authorities became enthusiastic when many migrants returned in the spring as the coronavirus spread. President Volodymyr Zelenskyikin said returnees must be held.

The main reason there is, of course, money for the migration of Ukrainians, says the director of Gremi Personal, which employs workers for Polish companies Yevgeny Kirichenko.

However, he said, there have been different stages in migration. Until 2014, mainly Western Ukrainians came to Poland for seasonal work, mainly in agriculture. After that, more people began to come, from different age groups, from different parts of the country and to different jobs.

“The change was pretty dramatic,” Kirichenko says.

The explanation is simple. In early 2014, Russia conquered Crimea. Later in the spring, an ongoing war began in eastern Ukraine. Anyway, the rather weak economy collapsed.

Ukraine In the spring, Statistics Finland announced that the average salary was about 400 euros. For many, of course, it is much lower, so some leave to migrate to support their families.

The departure has been facilitated by the fact that official Poland has welcomed the Ukrainians. The growing economy has also needed labor. The effect is also that more and more people are familiar with working in Poland.

“If someone in Ukraine wants to go to work in Poland, then he needs to ask five people. One of them has definitely been in Poland and can tell something, ”says Kirichenko.

Admittedly, now Germany has facilitated labor migration, so Ukrainians are offered a new destination. It has already raised concerns in Poland.

“We did a survey. According to it, 60 percent of Ukrainians working here in Poland are ready to pack their bags and go to work in Germany, ”Kirichenko says on the phone from Gdansk.

Veronika Tarasenko is sitting in a café on the edge of Lviv’s Old Town Central Square. Lviv has changed in recent years, and Tarasenko feels that Ukraine has developed.­

For Tarasenko however, the work at the washing machine factory was too heavy. A new job was found in the cafe. For a Polish speaker, it is quite easy to learn.

Some of the younger Ukrainians, especially those who studied in Poland, get a job similar to their education, but it happened to Tarasenko as often happens. He got a low-paid job that didn’t match education.

The worst part, though, was being a foreigner all the time. A coworker in a cafe immediately announced that he did not like Ukrainians. He was constantly looking for something unfortunate about Tarasenko’s actions. It was rough.

And he wasn’t the only one. The Poles said that Lviv is really Polish land and Lwów. Poles also often raised the issue of the mass murder of the Polish minority in Volhynia during World War II.

“Speaking of Ukraine was pointed out. Once on the tram, my friend and I talked about Ukraine, but we were reminded of it. It is said that only Polish is spoken in Poland. ”

So Tarasenko decided to come back, by chance a little before the epidemic broke out. Now she is studying to be a masseuse. Leaving again is still an option, but he thinks about it carefully.

“Ukraine has also changed. There are more opportunities than before, ”he says at a café table in Lviv’s central square.

“My daughter is 22 years old and doesn’t want to go to Poland. I have always told him that it is better to look for himself here. ”

Lviv the development of the center is clearly visible. The old town has been largely renovated, with restaurants, bars and shops serving customers despite the epidemic.

However, the coronavirus has also hit the Ukrainian economy. It is projected to shrink by 5.5-6% this year and poverty to increase. Old problems are also unresolved. In relation to its natural resources, Ukraine is a poor country with a low level of processing. In eastern Ukraine, the war continues.

Few experts believe that migration will decrease. Before the pandemic, more people left for Poland with their families, suggesting a sense of invisibility in their home country.

Many who have come home are planning to return, although some fear that jobs in Poland and Germany will be reduced due to the economic impact of the coronavirus.

Oksana Tatjanina, who lives near Kiev, is coming from the Polish consulate in Kiev, where she applied for a visa. He had previously worked in Poland but temporarily returned home due to the coronavirus epidemic.­

Kiev nearby resident Oksana Tatjanina is heading back to Poland. He had time to work in Wrocław for six months before the coronavirus. During the epidemic, his visa expired and he returned home.

Now he is applying for a new visa, in fact he is coming directly from the Polish consulate.

She is also a nurse. The former job, the village health center, was underfunded and there was not enough money for heating either. The salary was also bad. So we had to go to work elsewhere, either in Kiev or Poland.

When acquaintances were leaving for Poland, he decided to go there.

“My experience in Poland didn’t seem to be very successful because I had expected to earn significantly more. But I want to try again, ”Tatjanina says.

“The idea is to work temporarily in Poland and to return to Ukraine, after I earned enough to renovate my house.”


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