Ukrainian refugees struggle to find work and accommodation in Europe amid Russian invasion


Ukrainian psychologist Tatyana Bogkova was on a birthday trip to Poland with her mother and four-year-old daughter when Russian troops invaded her homeland.

With shells raining down on the city of Kharkiv and her policeman husband staying behind to fight, the 32-year-old took refuge in Spain, where she quickly translated her resume and took language lessons in the hope of landing a job.

However, months later, he is still looking.

“I am not afraid of any job, but I would like to do what I learned,” Ms. Bogkova said.

“Every day I look for ideas on how to work while my daughter is at school.”

A help center of the Catholic Church and a family offered them a free house until December.

Ms. Bogkova cleans a coffee shop fortnightly with her mother and also volunteers on social media for a charity.

His family is among the 7.6 million Ukrainian refugees scattered across Europe since Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops across the border and heavily bombed cities.

From their flat in Madrid, Tatyana Bogkova and her daughter, Eva, talk to her husband and father, Andreyas, while the television reports on the war in Ukraine. (Reuters: Susanna Vera)

Ukrainians were initially welcomed with open arms in shelters and homes across Europe, where authorities bypassed bureaucratic hurdles.

As the war moves into its eighth month and their hopes for a quick comeback fade, many feel in limbo and struggle to make ends meet.

Europe’s cost-of-living crisis, including rising energy bills as winter approaches, has exacerbated their plight, as explained by Ihor Ostrovskyi, a 57-year-old academic from Lviv who fled to Portugal after the invasion.

“Initially, a lot of people came. [to Portugal] feeling depressed about the war…now their main problem is the situation here,” Ostrovskyi said.

She works at the reception of a warehouse that is the Lisbon refugee center and said that most of those who arrive need urgent help to find a job or a house.

“Nobody knew this was going to last this long,” he said of the waning enthusiasm of Portuguese families to open houses for free.

Struggle to find work, language barrier

Portugal has taken in more than 52,000 Ukrainians, and authorities are running programs to help them pay rent and find homes in a process some say is slow.

Spain has welcomed 142,000 under a temporary protection regime and has guaranteed them health and employment services from the first day, advantages that other groups of refugees do not obtain so quickly.

However, Ukrainian refugees have had a hard time finding jobs with decent wages, especially those that match their skills.

A woman brushes the hair of a girl sitting on a bed.
Tatyana Bogkova and her daughter Eva share a flat with other Ukrainian refugees in Madrid. (Reuters: Susanna Vera)

Many lack local language skills and most are women, many single mothers, because Ukrainian men of fighting age have largely been left behind.

Those who do find work are often forced to work in low-wage sectors such as tourism, agriculture, and construction.

In Spain, official data shows that only 13 percent of the 90,000 Ukrainians of working age have a job.

Some 61 per cent of the arrivals had been in higher education, and 28 per cent held professional degrees or qualifications, typically economists, engineers, software developers and entrepreneurs.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Share post:


More like this