Saturday, June 22, 2024

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Ukrainian women finding their feet in Poland

The ‘Ukrainian woman in Poland’ project was created in March 2022. Julia, a Ukrainian woman from Donetsk living in Poland for the last 10 years, was one of its initiators. She tells Poland Weekly about the project and how she came to be involved in it.

“There is a saying in both Poland and Ukraine that life is a path we tread. However, how different is the path trodden by migrants. I have walked this path myself. But I did not run away from the war, rather it was family fate that brought me here,” she says. 

“I learned the language, found a job, started my own business, continued my education and raised my children in a new culture and local customs. I did everything so that the world I found myself in wouldn’t treat me like an outsider,” Julia adds. “And I was lucky to end up in Poland, where people don’t treat you like that. Maybe it’s our common experiences, formed in the generations of our ancestors, that make us feel close to each other today?”

Anger is power

Julia says the tragic events of the war still make her angry, awakening despair within her. “I felt there was nothing I could do. But then I realized that this anger was a great force that could be turned into good, strong emotions. And that I could do something that would work,” says Julia.

This is how the “Ukrainian woman in Poland” project was created in March 2022 – for Ukrainian women escaping the war. It is aimed at preventing professional isolation and integrating Ukrainian women into local society. “So that, just like me 10 years ago, they would not feel like strangers and would not be afraid of living,” as she puts it.

The project is an initiative inspired by Implementation of The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including in particular strengthening the position of women in business in accordance with the UN slogan ‘Equality means business,’ which promotes education, training and the professional development of women.

This is especially important for Ukrainian women who have fled their homes, leaving behind everything: families, pets, and life’s possessions look for a safe haven in a neighboring country – Poland. 

Wider ripples

However, the first months of operation showed that this project is not only about women and for women – it is also about business people, local governments, non-governmental organizations, private individuals and everyone who gives support during this difficult time. 

“We integrate the local community around ideas and activities aimed at strengthening the social position of Ukrainian women in Poland – for our common future, “ she goes on. “We want to act for the common future of all of us – Poles and Ukrainian women. By giving Ukrainian women new chances, helping them to get back on their feet and rebuild themselves in Poland, we act both for those who fled the war, but also for the local community of hosts who face new challenges,” Julia says.

These women, often highly educated, competent and willing to develop, are at risk of professional marginalization in Poland. Not knowing the language or local labor law regulations, they have less chance of achieving a high professional position and reward appropriate to their skills.

“Immediate support is easier, but long-term help is difficult and requires a comprehensive approach,” Julia says. “We will not stop thanking the Poles for being patient with us, for supporting us, and most importantly, for seeing potential in us and reckoning with the fact that a large part of war migrants will one day become Polish citizens. Our objectives are common, we are people who know the feeling of oppression and powerlessness. We know that together we can build a new society,” Julia concludes.

Sylwia Ziemacka
Sylwia Ziemacka
“I believe our unique selling point is that we focus on what brings us together. Poland Weekly offers something you will not find anywhere else: a truly international and unifying perspective focused on content that builds cooperation and mutual understanding. This attitude doesn't make us naïve, but it allows us to focus on mutual understanding and a search for solutions. There are so many new challenges that we are all facing, such as energy transformation, climate change and supply chain disruption, to name but a few. By working together and sharing good practices, we can achieve so much more.”