Some Ukrainian refugees land jobs in Eastern Europe

People fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine arrive at a border checkpoint in Kroscienko
Refugees crossing the border from Ukraine to Poland arrive to a reception point, fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine, at at border checkpoint in Kroscienko, Poland, March 17, 2022. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo
  • Many refugees expected to land jobs in Eastern Europe
  • Growing numbers also making their way further west
  • Nearly 3.3 million people have fled Ukraine so far

PRZEMYSL, Poland/PRAGUE/STOCKHOLM, March 18 (Reuters) - Some Ukrainian refugees who have fled to nearby countries in Europe are starting to find jobs while others are looking to move further west as the war in their homeland grinds into its fourth week and the number of those displaced keeps rising.

Nearly 3.3 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24, U.N. data showed, as artillery shells and missiles pummel cities and towns and strike even relative safe havens such as Lviv near the Polish border. read more Russia denies targeting civilians.

Thousands of Eastern Europeans have opened their homes to the refugees, many of whom are women and children since men of conscription age are obliged to stay in Ukraine, while schools and employers increasingly look to integrate those arriving.

And there is a need for workers in countries like Poland and Slovakia, which have struggled for years with labour shortages amid strong economic growth, ageing populations, and the exodus of some citizens seeking better-paid jobs in western Europe.

Dani Kolsky and his wife co-own a coffee import and roasting business and a string of cafes in the Czech Republic, where new legislation will allow Ukrainian refugees to join the workforce.

He is already training many Ukrainians, and plans to hire about 20 when the new rules kick in.

"This is a starting job. Many are teachers or musicians, they will perhaps move on in a couple of weeks when they find something better," he said.

"But at least they will have something to begin with."

A survey of Czech businesses showed 72% were ready to hire Ukrainian workers when able.


While the Czech Republic can leverage low unemployment and thousands of unfilled jobs, the relatively small size of economies in Eastern and Central Europe set against the scale of the Ukrainian exodus mean opportunities may still be limited.

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

Dressed in an oversized pink hoodie and carrying two heavy bags, she said she had initially planned to stay in Poland to be closer to Ukraine and her husband, who stayed behind to fight, but had felt compelled to change plans.

"I wanted to stay close but we've heard there isn't enough space or work in Poland," she said as she waited outside the 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 away from home, but I think even with the minimum wage there, my children will have a better life," she said.

But most refugees still look set to remain in Europe.

EU states have agreed to ease access to jobs, schools, healthcare and welfare services for the refugees, though the legislative processes are moving at a varying pace around Europe.

Nearly 190,000 Ukrainians have now reached Germany, Europe's largest economy, posing what Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called a "big, big challenge" for authorities.

Sweden, like Germany a major destination during the 2015 Syrian refugee crisis, expects as many as 212,000 Ukrainians to arrive in the coming months. read more

At the Migration Agency's office in the Stockholm suburb of Sundbyberg hundreds of Ukrainians waited to register, and so get access to government support measures, in a line that has snaked around the block for several days.

Volunteers such as Malin Aronsson, a pastor at a nearby church, have done their best to help the refugees, many of whom have arrived with few belongings and little money.

"We've collected a large number of volunteers to be in this line and just provide a lot 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

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Mari Saito is an investigative reporter with an international remit, covering everything from wars to popular protests. Most recently Mari produced a series of investigations about war crimes in Bucha, the infiltration of Ukraine’s security services by Russia, and the discovery of thousands of pages of Russian military documents in a bunker in eastern Ukraine. Mari, who is originally from Tokyo, also uncovered corruption in the run-up to Japan’s Olympic Games and has worked on a series of investigations about asylum seekers in Japan and labor abuses by automakers.