Overcoming Adversity: Surviving War and Rebuilding Lives as Ukrainian Refugees in Austria

Three generations of Ukrainian women enduring perpetual exile in Austria

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. Now they find themselves in exile together in Austria, trying to integrate while facing the reality that a quick return to their homeland may not be possible. 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.

Marina, 43, has worked hard to build a new life for herself and her family in Austria. She found a job in a supermarket and worked her way up from the bakery department to become head cashier. Her daughter, Katia, 17, is studying remotely at a Viennese high school with the goal of obtaining the Austrian high school diploma in 2025. Irina, the 64-year-old grandmother, has dedicated herself to volleyball and has formed a circle of friends. Together they have worked hard to integrate into the local community and have found an apartment where they can make the most of their new lives in Austria.

However for women whose husbands are on the front lines of war it is not easy to rebuild their lives. As the conflict drags on many Ukrainian refugees are finding it difficult to find jobs or learn new languages as volunteers are struggling to keep up with demand for help. The burden on Austrians who have opened their homes to refugees is growing too and there is concern about the long-term impact on communities hosting refugees.

The situation is not much better for neighboring Germany which is home to over a million refugees from all over the world including Ukraine. The massive influx of people puts pressure on municipalities capacity to receive and support them leading some residents expressing anti-immigration rhetoric as more asylum seekers arrive from other countries adding fuel

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