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Diary of a Ukrainian refugee: ‘Mothers face the greatest difficulties finding a job’

Nina Mishchenko and her son Andriy (12) were forced to flee their home in Kyiv in February. They are now living with a host family in Templeogue, Dublin

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Video calls: Nina Mishchenko and her son Andriy. Photo by Frank McGrath

Video calls: Nina Mishchenko and her son Andriy. Photo by Frank McGrath

Video calls: Nina Mishchenko and her son Andriy. Photo by Frank McGrath

Andriy and I have been in Dublin for almost five months now. On one hand, our days are different, but on the other, they are similar. I cook for him, we talk to his dad via video link, we go for walks or go to the city centre by bus.

The other day we were in the Botanic Gardens. It’s funny that Andriy showed his dad the ducks via video link, and his dad showed him ducks on the lake near our apartment in Kyiv. It’s good that we can make these video calls. We can watch Andriy’s snake being fed live and see our cats. I showed my husband the beautiful roses in the Botanic Gardens and the seashore in Bray.

Many of the things my son and his dad did together, I now need to do alone. Only, I don’t play video games with him — I don’t know how… And of course there are not enough hugs, joint walks or trips to the cinema.

The rest of the time I do my volunteer work with Ukrainian Action in Ireland (UACT), which allows me to feel professionally in demand. I also help with communications for the Keep Going Ukraine foundation. We help small businesses in Ukraine during the war. I am a former journalist and I work well with information, but I remember during my first few months in Ireland, I was under a lot of stress. I wrote a five-page CV but then I realised that I wasn’t ready to work as I was psychologically affected by the war. Many of us felt the same.

Communicating with Ukrainians here, helping them with simple questions, helped me regain my senses. Plus, the mission of the organisation is very close to mine — to speak and act for Ukrainians in Ireland. The biggest problem for us here is housing. We are grateful to Ireland that everyone so far has temporary housing. But it is very difficult for people to find a job or a school for their children if they are constantly being relocated. Some live with host families, but it is not clear how long we can enjoy the kindness of these people.

I know this is a problem for many Irish people too. For the first month in Ireland, we lived in a house that my sister rented. But the landlord’s plans changed and everyone had to leave. Ukrainian refugees will soon face the same problems. Just imagine, 85pc of more than 40,000 Ukrainian refugees in Ireland are women with children, and another 4pc are older people.

It will be difficult for them to find a full-time job when schools are only open until lunchtime and closed in summer, and children’s camps cost money. And I’m not even talking about renting a house or an apartment, maybe just a room.

Together with the UACT team, we did a big survey of Ukrainian refugees to understand the real problems they are facing. Mothers face the greatest difficulties finding employment. Although 20pc of mothers have found jobs, 43pc are actively looking and 22pc are unable to work because of child commitments or health conditions.

Plus, they have the challenge of understanding the Irish jobs market. There are a lot of new things to learn.

In conversation with Katie Byrne

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