Irina, Marina, and Katia are a grandmother, mother, and granddaughter originally from Mikolaiv, southern Ukraine. They had to flee their city of origin due to the dangerous war with Russia. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that there are 6 million Ukrainian exiles in Europe, marking an unprecedented wave of displacement since World War II.
The three women have found refuge in Austria and are working hard to integrate into the local community. Marina has worked her way up from the bakery department to become head cashier at a supermarket. Katia is studying remotely at a Viennese high school with the goal of obtaining the Austrian high school diploma in 2025. Irina has dedicated herself to volleyball and has formed a circle of friends. Despite their struggles, they remain optimistic about their future in Austria and are determined to rebuild their lives here.
However, the situation for Ukrainian refugees is complicated by the ongoing conflict with Russia. The initial wind of solidarity for refugees has lost strength as volunteers find it difficult to help women find jobs and learn the language. The burden on Austrians who have opened their homes to refugees is also growing, leading some to express concern about the long-term impact on their communities hosting refugees.
Neighboring Germany faces similar challenges with over a million refugees putting pressure on municipalities’ capacity to receive and support them. This situation fueled anti-immigration rhetoric as more asylum seekers come from other countries continue to rise. The EU must define a permanent status for Ukrainian refugees before their temporary protection status expires in 2025. Many refugees may have no choice but to resign themselves to rebuilding their lives in host countries as the conflict in Ukraine continues with no clear end in sight.
The Ukrainian authorities also worry about potential demographic challenges if refugees do not return home soon enough. The director of UNHCR in Europe highlights efforts like online courses for students and opportunities for refugees to travel back and forth while keeping contact with Ukrainian population alive despite ongoing conflict.
In summary, Irina, Marina, and Katia’s journey represents one small part of an enormous crisis facing millions of people around the world who have been displaced by war or persecution. While they hope for a better future in Austria or even Ukraine one day, many other families face daunting choices that require resilience and determination just like this family’s story does.