Stories of Resilience and Courage

Reflecting on the past year, resilience and courage immediately spring to mind. Our event held at the close of 2023, alongside refugee women from Ukraine, centered around these very themes. During the event, these women openly shared their experiences in Romania, illustrating both the hardships they encountered and the resilience they displayed.

Engaging in heartfelt conversations with these women, who bravely left behind their lives and loved ones in Ukraine, evoked a sense of hope and gratitude. Despite their trials, they expressed feeling cautiously secure and slightly hopeful as they forged new paths in our country.

Notably, the majority of Ukrainian refugees in our country are women, underscoring the significance of amplifying each woman’s voice, particularly within our Independent Midwives Association. With this in mind, our aim was to directly engage with refugee women to explore avenues for enhancing policies and identifying measures that institutions and authorities could implement to facilitate their integration.

Among the focal points of our discussions was the importance of timely government payments for ensuring financial stability. Additionally, refugee women stressed the need for heightened safeguards against exploitation in the real estate market. Suggestions such as implementing rent controls and providing free access for vulnerable individuals were proposed to create a secure and accessible environment for these women.

Furthermore, addressing the issue of educational equivalency emerged as crucial for refugee women, alongside the provision of social services for childcare and their seamless integration into educational institutions. These measures are essential not only for easing their transition into the workforce but also for nurturing their aspirations for a stable and prosperous future for themselves and their families in Romania.

During the event, we also delved into strategies to support single mothers in navigating the challenges they face. This included discussions on improving access to medical services and ensuring the availability of online translators and interpreters in all healthcare facilities and ambulance services. Such initiatives aim to facilitate their access to healthcare and promote a more efficient integration into the community.

Gathered within a relaxed and secure environment, 20 Ukrainian women openly shared their stories of the most challenging aspects they left behind upon fleeing their homeland. They reflected on the lessons garnered from their refugee journeys and the transformations within their relationships due to the ravages of war. Since most refugees are women and their voices are not always heard, we sought to amplify their opinions, probing into their insights on potential policy and institutional enhancements if they were in positions of authority. Their responses were clear and targeted, pinpointing the areas where systemic improvements are urgently required: timely disbursement of promised financial assistance to ensure economic stability; formulation of housing and rental policies safeguarding refugees from exploitation in the real estate market, with provisions for housing assistance for the most vulnerable groups. Additionally, they underscored the necessity for social safety nets and expanded childcare facilities, such as nurseries and after-school programs, enabling mothers’ better integration into the workforce. Moreover, they highlighted the imperative of recognizing their educational credentials within the Romanian system, thus facilitating access to higher-paying and respected employment opportunities commensurate with their skills.

Regarding healthcare access, their foremost demand is for the provision of translators in hospitals and ambulances, either through online tools or a dedicated Call Center, to overcome language barriers and ensure equitable access to medical services.

Ukrainian women share experiences and emotions

Miroslava, 45, Odesa
A refugee’s life in a foreign country is always challenging, but for a single mother raising her daughter without financial support, the struggle becomes even more daunting. In Ukraine, I held a successful and well-paid position as a chief accountant. However, upon finding myself in a new country, I am compelled to take up low-paying, unskilled work due to the inability to validate my education and unfamiliarity with Romanian legislation. Each day, I wake up at 5 am and head to the clothing store, where I stock shelves. Securing even this type of employment was a difficult task. Meanwhile, my 9-year-old daughter prepares her own breakfast and goes to school independently while I’m at work. As the war goes on in Ukraine, my daughter and I will remain in Bucharest. However, now we are no longer living, but surviving. I believe that with functional integration programs, I could contribute to Romania with my expertise and knowledge. I have the desire to work and grow, but there is no such opportunity.

Natalia, Kyiv
One should pay attention to the segment of refugee women who are eager to contribute their expertise, knowledge, and skills to the advancement of Romania. As a coordinator of educational programs, which is in high demand now, I recognize the pivotal role such initiatives play in integrating Ukrainian refugees into the Romanian community. There are many programs that could help both teenagers and adults integrate quickly and successfully. For example, I am the developer of an integration game – this is a learning and educational game program. Its essence lies in laying out a large playing field (a carpet) measuring 4 by 4 meters. Children move around the field, performing various tasks upon encountering designated locations representing geographical landmarks, architectural wonders or historical events. In the process, participants immerse themselves in legends and stories associated with these places while completing creative assignments. Thus, the activity offers two hours of stimulating and enriching entertainment. The same program can be developed dedicated to Romania, which will provide an opportunity to better understand and integrate into the new cultural environment.

Marina, 35, Odesa
In my opinion, the most important thing for the successful and effective integration of Ukrainian refugees in Romania is to learn the Romanian language as quickly as possible. For this we need integration courses. It is important to understand that language learning is also the responsibility of the refugees themselves. I believe that, if Romania were to provide support to Ukrainians through its own tax resources rather than relying solely on funding from the European Commission and the European Union, the country would be more interested in Ukrainians learning the Romanian language as quickly as possible. This would enable them to promptly enter the workforce and, consequently, achieve successful integration. Furthermore, the presence of organizations like IMA, which assist refugees in accessing medical care and food, plays a vital role in supporting their well-being during the integration process.

Yulia, 43, Kyiv
I arrived in Bucharest a year and a half ago with my teenage daughter, leaving behind a life of family, friends, and a thriving career as a well-paid journalist, along with financial stability in my hometown. I speak English, so initially it wasn’t difficult for me to find a job. Yet, now, more and more employers first require us to speak Romanian, and this is very challenging for me. For successful integration into Romania, both for myself and for many other Ukrainians, state Romanian language courses are extremely important, providing training at least up to level B1, which is the practice in Germany and other European countries accommodating Ukrainian refugees. We are ready to work in Romania and contribute our skills and knowledge to Romania’s progress. I know that many Ukrainians, like myself, plan to make Romania their home, so language integration is now a priority.

Project funded by CORE with American Red Cross funds.

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