Professional Integration HUB



A unique internship program for Ukrainian professionals in Austria


9 July 2024

Matilda Cherednichenko: “It is normal to encounter difficulties, but it is important not to lose sight of your goals and desires”

Matilda Cherednichenko, Professional Integration HUB 1.0 Program Participant (Salzburger Künstverein)

  • Age: 23 years old
  • City in Ukraine where you lived before the full-scale invasion (forced relocation): Kyiv
  • Specialization: Curator / Event Manager


Before the full-scale invasion, I worked at a film studio that is part of the National Union of Cinematographers of Ukraine, where I was actively involved in various film projects. My responsibilities included working on set and handling archival materials. I also took on various freelance roles as an event manager and coordinator. Despite the challenges posed by the dynamic nature of the industry during COVID, I found satisfaction in bringing creative ideas to life.

However, the unclear political and economic landscape has created significant challenges for the film industry in Ukraine. The instability has made it difficult to plan long-term projects or secure funding for productions. russia’s aggression against Ukraine has profoundly affected many aspects of life, including the arts and culture sector, leading to many projects being suspended or canceled due to security concerns and lack of funding. The film industry has been particularly hard hit, with many workplaces unable to function under the current circumstances. Despite these challenges, there is a resilient spirit among Ukrainian professionals, many of whom are finding innovative ways to continue their work online or even during air alarms.


The war caught me completely off guard. I remember being suddenly woken up around 4 or 5 in the morning by my mom’s urgent call, telling me that it had begun. During the chaos and uncertainty, my family, our neighbors, and I, along with my dog, spent the next two weeks in a local basement which we used as a bomb shelter. The weeks that followed were filled with stress and anxiety as we dealt with the war. Eventually, I faced the difficult decision to leave my country.

We planned to depart with my mother and dog on an evacuation train, but by the time we reached the station, it was already overcrowded, and only children and women were allowed to board. For a moment, I considered staying in Kyiv, but my mother convinced me to go ahead and wait for them at the border. The train’s destination was uncertain, and passengers only learned of their endpoint as they arrived. I spent the following days in a small Ukrainian village near the Romanian border. Later, my mother informed me that a family friend had offered to host me. Thus, I traveled alone through Romania and Hungary before reaching Austria. The entire journey took about a week.

For the next two weeks, I stayed with friends until we secured refugee accommodation in a local male monastery on Kapuzinerberg Mountain, where I spent the next nine months. During this time, I organized several events related to Ukraine. The first project, co-organized with the local NGO Ukreate Peace in July 2022, was a Charity Dinner featuring traditional Ukrainian cuisine and an art auction “Under the Open Sky.” This event exhibited works donated by a variety of Ukrainian and European artists. The second event was the Ukrainian Film Festival “Homeward Bound,” which highlighted the diversity of the Ukrainian film scene. All collected donations were directed to the Ukreate Peace fund to help Ukrainians currently living in the Land of Salzburg.


When I arrived in Austria, I faced many challenges as I adapted to the new reality. The first and perhaps most difficult challenge was the disbelief that the war would reach such a scale and last so long. It was a surreal moment that made all of us face the harsh reality of displacement and instability.

One of the key challenges was adapting to an entirely new environment and establishing a sense of normalcy amidst the chaos. It felt like living in limbo, no longer fully present in my life back home, yet not quite rooted in the new surroundings. This transitional phase was marked by feelings of disorientation and displacement as I struggled to build a new life from scratch.

Additionally, the фlanguage barrier and finding suitable accommodation posed significant challenges. Navigating a country with a completely different language added complexity to everyday tasks, from grocery shopping to accessing state services.

In the face of these challenges, I found comfort and support in the small rituals and routines of everyday life. Simple acts, such as enjoying a cup of coffee while walking my dog in the morning, gave me a sense of normalcy and life energy amidst the uncertainty. These moments acted as a lifeline, reminding me of the joy and simple beauty of being alive, even while facing difficulties.

For other Ukrainians facing similar challenges, my advice is to keep moving forward and pursue paths of growth and self-discovery. It is normal to encounter difficulties, but it is important not to lose sight of your goals and desires. Trust your instincts and follow your heart, even when the path ahead seems unclear. Strength and determination are your greatest assets in overcoming obstacles and building a normal life in a new land.


I found out about the Professional Integration Hub through social media. After seeing reposts from institutions I follow and various channels announcing open calls, I became intrigued by the organizations involved in the project. Motivated by the possibility for personal and professional growth, I decided to apply. Comparing the cultural landscapes of Ukraine and Austria, I noticed significant differences in work processes. In Ukraine, there tends to be a distinction between the mainstream and underground scenes, whereas Austria exhibits more integration and cohesion within the cultural community. This holistic approach to art and culture is what I aspire to see in Ukraine, as it fosters a more inclusive and vibrant creative environment.


The internship at the Professional Integration HUB program had a huge impact on my professional ambitions. I am determined to look for opportunities within Austria’s cultural institutions. Although I have not yet secured a position, I remain hopeful and active in my job search. The experience and knowledge gained during my internship provided me with valuable skills and a deeper understanding of European working processes.