16 July 2024

Nataliya Sherimbetova: “Now I have confidence in my qualifications and abilities to excel in any office environment in Austria and beyond”

Nataliya Sherimbetova, Professional Integration HUB 1.0 program participant (WIENXTRA).

  • Age: 44 years old
  • City in Ukraine where you lived before the full-scale invasion (forced relocation): Kyiv
  • Specialization: Pedagogy and methods of education (MA)

PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND

I have been actively engaged in various roles throughout my career, including:

  • Product owner at IT Step Academy
  • Motivational speaker and mentor for startups
  • Coordinator of a startup program for teenagers
  • Curriculum developer
  • Creator of educational programs, courses, and marathons for companies

FORCED EMIGRATION

The war caught me in my Kyiv apartment, peacefully asleep with a cat by my side. It was actually a very active period in my life; I was working on scaling the project and had to give a presentation that was supposed to be the turning point in my professional life. But the early morning phone call and sounds of explosions made me change my way.

I had to move to the Transcarpathian region and stay there for a month, trying to work remotely, but most of my time I assisted the IT army. Then I lost connection with my parents for two weeks because the place where they live was under constant rocket attack, and… I lost all sense of life. So, the following actions were like moving in the dark, and as a result, I found myself in Austria.

Austria was the first European country where I thought to stay for a week and go further to an English-speaking country. But Caritas picked us up at the railway station so fast that I didn’t even notice how I ended up at the refugee center in Vienna. Then we were taken to another location in Wiener Neustadt, and in three days we were taken further to Lower Austria, where we lived with 10 other people (who actually became my friends). It was a hard time, as I faced psychological problems. I could not accept the fact that such terrible things could happen in our era.

LIFE IN AUSTRIA

The main challenge I faced in Austria was the language barrier. I had zero knowledge of German. There were two primary obstacles when I sent out CVs: being overqualified and the requirement of at least B2 proficiency in German.

Since it wasn’t my plan to stay in a foreign country, I didn’t have specific expectations. However, several things surprised me: communication primarily via email, abundance of postal mail, closures of supermarkets and shopping malls on Sundays and holidays, and inefficiencies in call centers and hotlines. On the positive side, I was impressed by the availability of tap water, the emphasis on work-life balance among office workers (as reflected in the phrase “kein stress”), lots of parks and natural spaces, excellent public transportation, and the openness of politicians and local authorities to communication and feedback. Moreover, Vienna’s support programs for children and youth, such as the Vienna Children and Youth Strategy, are worthy.

I find comfort in the fresh air and peace of my surroundings, keep in regular touch with my parents over the phone, and have been connecting with local professionals to build a network.

My advice to Ukrainians living abroad: seek out a good psychotherapist, prioritize self-care, and remain open to the possibilities that lie ahead.

PROFESSIONAL INTEGRATION HUB

The Professional Integration HUB program caught my eye in a social media group. Initially, I simply wanted to start working in Austria and acquaint myself with the local market. However, my internship turned out to be much more intensive than expected. I had the opportunity to make friends, meet professionals, and engage with both local and international organizations. The only disappointment is that I can’t continue working here. However, I feel energized and motivated to find another job, improve my German, and explore potential projects to undertake here.

During my time at the WIENXTRA departments, I contributed to an Erasmus+ project on Youth Work with Ukrainian Displaced Youth, organizing a successful one-week conference for Ukrainian social youth workers. Additionally, I proposed and implemented weekly Info Days for Ukrainian families at Kinderinfo, providing essential information about WIENXTRA programs and opportunities for children aged 0 to 13.

In terms of program/project coordination, I didn’t notice significant differences in the work process; it was similar to what I experienced in Ukraine, just conducted in English and German.

The friendly and supportive atmosphere among my colleagues left a lasting impression on me. I felt welcomed and at home. I learned the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance and not letting work-related stress impact my personal life. Despite facing numerous job rejections before the internship, I now have confidence in my qualifications and abilities to excel in any office environment in Austria and beyond.

I’ve realized the significance of using every opportunity to connect with new people and professionals. Moreover, adopting the “Kein stress” mindset has been life-changing, helping me navigate various situations with calmness and self-control.

PLANS AFTER PARTICIPATING IN THE PROGRAM 

The internship in the Professional Integration HUB program has recharged me; now I have a clearer direction regarding the area I want to work in here.

Implementing European practices that could benefit Ukraine, especially in youth development, is crucial. One achievable opportunity is to establish exchange programs between Ukrainian youth organizations and their European counterparts. This could facilitate the sharing of best practices, innovative approaches, and resources to enhance youth engagement and empowerment in Ukraine. Using European expertise in youth policy development, capacity building, and intercultural dialogue can help strengthen the youth work sector in Ukraine and address the specific challenges faced by young people, particularly those affected by the war.

I admire the way Vienna city engages with children and young people. For instance, they have collaborated to develop a strategic plan known as The Vienna Children and Youth Strategy 2020 – 2025, aimed at ensuring a safe and comfortable environment for all. This serves as a good example for Ukraine to follow.

We must prioritize the well-being of children and young people. Ukraine needs to provide not only safety and a place for learning, but also professionals, mentors, teachers, and volunteers who can demonstrate effective learning methods, facilitate implementation of ideas, foster effective communication, and encourage critical thinking. It’s essential to empower young people to express their ideas and themselves in all areas of life. Qualified social and youth workers should be recognized as essential roles in Ukraine. However, this requires finding individuals willing to work in the social sector and providing them with appropriate education and training.



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

PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND

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.

FORCED EMIGRATION

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.

LIFE IN AUSTRIA

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.

PROFESSIONAL INTEGRATION HUB

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.

PLANS AFTER PARTICIPATING IN THE PROGRAM 

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.

4 July 2024

Maryana Strepko: “My advice to Ukrainians living abroad is to always step out of your comfort zone”

Mag.Maryana Strepko, Professional Integration HUB 1.0 Program Participant (The Federal Ministry for Education, Science, and Research)

  • Age: 41 years old
  • City in Ukraine where you lived before the full-scale invasion (forced relocation): Lviv
  • Specialization: University teacher of German language

PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND

Before the full-scale invasion, I pursued my studies both in Ukraine and at the University of Vienna. I worked as a university German language instructor in Lviv and also served as the head of a German language school in Lviv. I have dedicated my entire professional life to the field of education, where I have gained extensive experience.

FORCED EMIGRATION

I came to Vienna in mid-March 2022, thanks to a colleague from Austria whom I met in Lviv during an international project. She convinced me to come to Vienna with my children for 2-3 weeks, but now it has already been two years.

LIFE IN AUSTRIA

My advice to Ukrainians living abroad is to always step out of your comfort zone, stay active, and meet new people. It’s important to seize every opportunity for further education and to actively engage in social activities. Building connections and forming friendships with Austrians is crucial; they can help you better understand and integrate into the country.

PROFESSIONAL INTEGRATION HUB

I’d like to say some words about the differences in work processes and other aspects within my field between Ukraine and Austria.

In Ukraine, you typically know your colleagues and work environment well, understanding both the work dynamics and what is expected of you. In contrast, the work process in Austria demands quick integration into new teams, a rapid grasp of your colleagues’ work methods, and a readiness to embrace the unknown. However, the focus in Austria is less on the immediacy of task completion and more on the quality of the work performed.

PLANS AFTER PARTICIPATING IN THE PROGRAM

Having worked in the Ministry of Education, I see significant opportunities to leverage European experiences for Ukraine’s benefit. It is crucial to launch educational initiatives in Ukraine that conform to European standards and practices. Establishing joint research projects and collaborations with European educational institutions can enhance the quality and relevance of Ukrainian education, ultimately contributing to its socio-economic development and integration into the European community.

As an intern at the Ministry of Education, my observations have led to several recommendations for improving Ukraine’s education system in its pursuit of EU integration. First, it is imperative to align the curriculum with European standards to ensure compatibility and recognition across member states. Enhancing teacher training programs with a focus on modern pedagogical techniques will improve educational outcomes. Additionally, establishing a robust system for continuous assessment and feedback will help maintain high standards. Strengthening partnerships with EU educational institutions can foster exchange programs and collaborative projects. Additionally, fostering strong relationships of trust and support between teachers and students is crucial for a conducive learning environment. Finally, increasing funding for research and development in education will drive long-term improvements and innovation in the sector.

1 July 2024

Mariia Pylypenko: “The internship helped me develop clearer values, guiding my future path in the right direction”

Mariia Pylypenko, Professional Integration HUB 1.0 Program Participant (Belvedere Museum).

  • Age: 21 years old
  • City in Ukraine where you lived before the full-scale invasion (forced relocation): Kyiv
  • Specialization: Art (Art Manager, Art Historian, Artist)

PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND

Through my work at the M17 Contemporary Art Center in Kyiv, Ukraine, I have gained extensive experience in organizing and preparing both Ukrainian and international cultural and artistic projects. My responsibilities included creating visual and textual materials for project promotion, assisting in art collection management, and developing digital content, including website creation and maintenance for center-related projects. Additionally, I managed the center’s social media, developed content strategies, and prepared various content.

My professional background also includes volunteering as a museum tour guide at the Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of Arts in Kyiv. There, I conducted personalized tours of the museum’s Western European collection and supported the coordination of various museum events through volunteer work.

The current state of the art field in Ukraine, particularly its art institutions, is characterized by significant uncertainty. On one hand, cultural institutions have faced notable obstacles due to the war, requiring efforts to preserve their collections while adapting to contemporary realities. On the other hand, the visibility of art institutions in society has significantly increased during these challenging times, as demonstrated by the growing public interest in their activities and the substantial support they receive from the international art community. Additionally, following the full-scale invasion, both art and other institutions have revealed their strengths and weaknesses. This has helped them develop strategies for their operations and continued growth, providing an opportunity to establish themselves within the European and international art context.

FORCED EMIGRATION

The war found me early in the morning in my flat in Kyiv. Despite the shock, I managed to maintain composure and a clear mind. Living in the basement car park of our building for several weeks, my family and I eventually decided to evacuate to Lviv, in Western Ukraine, to get a pregnant relative out of the city. Returning to Kyiv at the end of May 2022, I had no intention of leaving again. However, a month later, the situation took a sharp turn with alarming news of the russian aggression. One evening, my mother and I made a spontaneous decision to leave for a couple of weeks to wait out the war. The very next morning, we were on our way to Uzhhorod, in Western Ukraine, and from there, we traveled to Vienna – a city I had visited three times as a tourist before the full-scale invasion. Our stay in a hotel during those few weeks reflected the reality that emigration wasn’t on our minds; we were simply waiting for the war to end. However, despite our wishes, fate had its own plans that could not be avoided.

LIFE IN AUSTRIA

I am very grateful to Austria for welcoming Ukrainian refugees with open arms, offering help, and providing all kinds of assistance. I was deeply touched by the kindness of the locals, their sympathy, and their support. What impressed me then and continues to impress me today in Austria is witnessing the EU’s stated values in action – from the philosophy and people’s perception of life to environmental organization, urban planning, and climate justice. Additionally, the energy that people show in advocating for their rights and values, and their commitment to truth and justice, is truly remarkable.

The biggest challenge for me was not knowing German, which made many everyday processes very difficult, from writing emails to communicating on the street. However, many local people showed understanding, not judging foreigners for trying to speak German, making mistakes, and learning about Austrian culture.

The advice I can offer to Ukrainians abroad, and which I strive to follow myself, is to actively explore everything, step out of the bubble of one’s usual community, and try to integrate into the international or local context. This includes learning the language and exploring the cultural depths of others, no matter how difficult it may be.

PROFESSIONAL INTEGRATION HUB

I found out about the Professional Integration HUB program through an Instagram post and decided to take a chance and apply. The internship at the Austrian Gallery Belvedere successfully met its main expectations and goals. It provided an opportunity to immerse myself in the Austrian professional sphere, gaining insight into the various methods and aspects of the institution’s work. Moreover, it facilitated an understanding of the fundamental principles and structure of the Austrian art sector, along with the professional values of local art managers. This knowledge will be valuable for applying to the Ukrainian cultural sphere in the future.

Overall, the internship became an important stage in my life, offering me not only valuable experience working in a leading Austrian institution but also shaping my personal perception of the dynamics among individuals, society, and institutions in relation to artistic and cultural heritage. It helped me develop clearer values in this regard, guiding my future path in the right direction.

The main initiative I was involved in during my internship was the organization of the symposium “Storms and Networks: Modernisms in an Extended Territorial Context,” which took place within the exhibition “In the Eye of the Storm: Modernism in Ukraine” on May 7, 2024, at Belvedere 21. Firstly, I express my gratitude to Miroslav Haľák, the co-curator of the exhibition from Belvedere, for his support, assistance, and time. Secondly, I was thrilled to be part of this process, integrating myself into the institution’s extensive mechanism of work throughout my internship. The symposium, which brought together leading experts in the field of modernism in Central and Eastern Europe, served as a significant scientific event fostering the exchange of opinions on the development of early 20th-century art in these regions.

A comparison between the art scenes in Ukraine and Austria, focusing on art institutions, organizational processes, and employees’ individual attitudes towards their work, provides insight into the strengths and weaknesses of Ukraine’s professional sector. Existing within entirely different realities, living conditions, and societal roles often causes this gap. In times of crisis, individual employees in the Ukrainian art sector are crucial for managing challenges and keeping things running smoothly, often relying more on personal initiative than established procedures. It’s worth remembering the heroism of specialists, like the staff of the National Art Museum of Ukraine, who lived in the museum at the beginning of the war to save the collection. It is also important to note the developed ability of Ukrainian specialists to find solutions quickly in complex situations and organize workflow despite challenges, including lack of financial support and physical danger.

We can learn a lot from Austria. The main difference between Austrian and Ukrainian art institutions, in my opinion, lies in their emphasis on being process-oriented rather than just focusing on the result. In Austria, the emphasis is placed on the process of creating exhibitions or any other project, prioritizing the idea and message, as well as public discussion, over a written report of successful completion. This approach, along with the responsibility and involvement of everyone at every stage of work, is fundamental to the successful functioning of the institution.

Reflecting on the insights I’ve gained from the Austrian professional environment, I have been deeply impressed by the dedication of Austrian professionals towards their work. This passion not only inspires but also provides a crucial understanding of why the Austrian art sector functions so effectively: each individual not only acts professionally but also truly loves their work, fully immersing themselves in their subject in a way that leaves a lasting impression.

PLANS AFTER PARTICIPATING IN THE PROGRAM

The Professional Integration HUB program provided me with invaluable experiences and insights, from a clearer understanding of my professional development path to the incredible opportunity to work in a leading Austrian art institution. It also facilitated networking and gave me a solid grasp of the basic principles of the Austrian professional sphere, local values, and working practices. This opens the door to integration and offers the chance to apply this knowledge within the Ukrainian context.

Considering the important role of Ukrainian art during the war – as a platform for reflecting Ukrainian realities, sharing culture, and introducing the country to the global stage – incorporating European practices becomes essential for integrating Ukraine into the European context across various fields. For Ukrainian art institutions, which are consistently involved in societal discussions, adopting European standards could have a significant impact. This influence would extend to interactions with the local community, nurturing a new generation that prioritizes freedom, supporting art education and promotion, and bolstering the international presence and influence of Ukrainian institutions. 

25 June 2024

Daria Driuchenko: “I truly believe that someone who works hard cannot remain an outsider”

Daria Driuchenko, Participant of the Professional Integration HUB 1.0 program (The Federal Ministry of Arts, Culture, Civil Service, and Sports of Austria).

  • Age: 33 years old
  • City in Ukraine where you lived before the full-scale invasion (forced relocation): Kyiv
  • Specialization: film director, producer

PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND

Before the war started, I had been working for eight years as the head director of TV shows at 1+1 Media Broadcast Channel, especially on “ZHVL” (The Lives of Famous People).

In 2018, I started my own production company, where we produced and filmed numerous series and movies with foreign collaborators who came to Ukraine for shootings. In 2022, I had to close my production company, which no longer exists.

FORCED EMIGRATION

When the war started, I was nine months pregnant and didn’t plan to move anywhere. However, after hearing the sounds of explosions, I realized it was safer to move, even if only for a couple of days, to my friends in the western part of Ukraine. While driving to Ternopil, I saw TV news about a woman who gave birth in a subway because of air alarms and missile attacks. That scared me so much that we decided to head to the border immediately.

After two nights sleeping in line at the border, we finally entered Europe on February 28th. Our plan was to go to Germany or Switzerland, where my film partners could help me organize my childbirth. But my labor contractions started unexpectedly, and my doctor advised me to stop driving immediately. The first major city we reached was Vienna.

LIFE IN AUSTRIA

I didn’t know anyone in Vienna, which was frightening, but it was better than giving birth in the car. The next day, we went to a Ukrainian church and received all the necessary help we needed. I’d say it wasn’t me who chose Austria; Austria chose me.

The first couple of weeks were very hard psychologically. Vienna seemed very strict, full of rules, bureaucracy, a foreign language, and fear. We didn’t understand any road signs or announcements. On the second day, our car was towed, and we had no idea where it was. It was such a tough time that I cried every day, asking myself why I was going through all of this. But kind people, especially volunteers, helped a lot. Within a few days, I already had everything I needed for the baby from ordinary.

I was not on the front line of the war, but I fought every day in my own emigration war. In my opinion, every Ukrainian who moved abroad is going through very tough times. After all, being in another country and constantly finding your place under the sun is a huge job. Leaving everything behind and building a new life in a foreign country is a challenge that not everyone is capable of. My advice is: NEVER GIVE UP! I believe we can all overcome our troubles and live our best lives.

PROFESSIONAL INTEGRATION HUB

A friend from Portugal sent me a link to the Professional Integration HUB on Instagram. I hadn’t seen it before and immediately felt it was my chance. My expectations were to join an Austrian team wherever possible. I am still on my way to integration and continue pursuing my dream of professional fulfillment. I truly believe that someone who works hard cannot remain an outsider. But being a refugee is different. To be a good employee is not enough; you have to be the best. There is no chance for mistakes.

I am very impressed with the internship because I am in the best place I could imagine. This is the top, where all the decisions are made. Here, I can see what the market of culture looks like and who the people at the Ministry are. And believe me, they are great.

During my internship, I initiated several projects, including:

  • A workshop for Ukrainian artists applying for grants and scholarships.
  • Filming the project «Ukrainian Artists in Austria».

Forty people attended the workshop, and I received significant feedback from Ukrainians. The videos will be posted on the Ministry of Culture’s website and social media.

I have never worked at the Ministry of Culture in Ukraine, but I see that here, the Ministry of Culture is very committed to funding culture in all its forms. They are highly interested in modern art and in developing artistic taste among teenagers and young people. The institution is decentralized, with each department handling its own tasks. This approach minimizes the chance of corruption and allows them to be flexible, quick, and contemporary.

I really appreciate the tradition of having lunch together. The entire floor gathers to enjoy a meal and discuss news, problems, and other matters. They are very open-minded and always ready to help.

PLANS AFTER PARTICIPATING IN THE PROGRAM

My key insight is to be open and active, not afraid to propose new ideas, and not afraid of making mistakes. Just stay honest and do your best.

I still hope to have the opportunity to stay here in a full-time job, but that decision is not entirely in my hands. Though, I remain hopeful. If this doesn’t work out, I will continue looking for other opportunities and full-time employment because integrating into this country is my main goal (At the time of publishing this interview, Daria had already received an offer from the Federal Ministry of Arts, Culture, Civil Service, and Sports of Austria to continue cooperation – HUB).

I believe I can continue to help Ukrainian artists through the Austrian Ministry of Culture. I could assist in updating programs for Ukrainians; propose new initiatives, and more. Knowing people personally, speaking Ukrainian, and understanding their mindset and needs, I think I could be a good representative to support our nation abroad. Austrians help us as much as they can, but they will never fully understand our pain. I believe it’s essential for every institution to have a Ukrainian representative to advocate for our nation internationally. If we want to stay here, we must accept the rules of the game.

24 June 2024

Building a Community: The First Meeting of the Professional Integration HUB

Building a community is one of the most important tools for fostering integration.

On May 18, 2024, this vision took a significant step forward with the inaugural meeting of the Professional Integration HUB community. The event was a milestone, bringing together program participants, their curators, finalists of the selection process, and representatives of institutions and organizations that support and believe in our mission.

Among the distinguished attendees was Dr. Judith Kohlenberger, a representative of the Vienna University of Economics and Business, who specializes in forced migration, human resources, and integration.

Inspiring speeches were delivered by the program organizers: Olena Bekreniova, Olga Olefirova, and Yana Barinova. Their words underscored the importance of building a strong, supportive community to foster professional growth and integration.

One of the key moments of the meeting was the presentation of an exciting video about the HUB, which highlighted the stories and experiences of the guests in attendance. This visual representation brought to life the essence and purpose of our community.

The highlight of the evening was a collaborative painting created by the guests. This artwork symbolized unity and a shared vision for the future, reflecting the collective spirit and dedication of all involved in the HUB.

We are deeply grateful to our guests and supporters. As we embark on this journey, we are committed to forming a vibrant community of Ukrainian professionals in Austria.

Together, we will continue to build bridges and foster professional integration, ensuring a brighter future for all. Stay connected with us for more updates and join us in this exciting venture.

The Professional Integration HUB is initiated by ERSTE Foundation. The project is implemented by the European Centre for Freedom and Independence.

24 June 2024

Professional Integration HUB 1.0: Outcomes and Prospects of the Program

11 June 2024

Khrystyna Skorokhod: “The internship in the Professional Integration HUB program has significantly influenced my professional ambitions”

Khrystyna Skorokhod, Participant of the Professional Integration HUB program (WIENXTRA).

  • age: 25
  • city in Ukraine where you lived before the full-scale invasion (forced relocation): Kyiv
  • specialization: Social Work

PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND

Before the full-scale invasion, I was completing my Master’s Degree in Social Work and working on my Master’s Thesis. Simultaneously, I worked as an International Secretary in the youth scout organization “Plast” in Ukraine, focusing on children and youth.

In Ukraine, there’s a need to learn quickly and do various tasks within tight deadlines, often requiring multitasking and resourcefulness. But from other side, it was great that you always have a space for your own ideas, supporting others and fostering creativity.

The work with youth in Ukraine is ongoing and adapting to the current situation. It faces challenges such as safety issues, reduced resources including human resources and energy, and limitations on opportunities compared to before. For instance, there are fewer opportunities to engage with youth in the East of Ukraine and a lack of safe spaces for events, therefore less interaction and communication.

FORCED EMIGRATION

The war found me on the morning of February 24th in my family’s apartment in Kyiv. The previous night, I had decided that I needed to accelerate my Master’s Thesis, so I went to bed very late. A few hours later, around 4 am, I was awoken by sounds that I immediately identified as unique from others.

I arrived in Austria at the end of March 2024. For the first two weeks after February 24th, my family and I stayed in the village in the Kyiv region. Then, I spent a week in the western part of Ukraine, followed by nearly two weeks in Italy before settling in Graz, Austria. My aunt’s relatives, who had migrated abroad long ago, assisted me with the move.

Initially, moving abroad was considered a temporary solution for safety reasons. I first relocated with my relatives to a village in the Alps in the north of Italy. However, as the war prolonged, my aunt’s relatives suggested that I move to Graz, Austria. We stopped there for a night on our way to Italy, and I was immediately drawn to it. Graz offered more opportunities for study and work compared to the village. I’m deeply thankful to Yulia and Nadiya, two remarkable women, for hosting and supporting me in their apartment in Graz for nearly a year, particularly during periods of stress and uncertainty.

LIFE IN AUSTRIA

In Austria, I faced a variety of challenges that really tested me, such as overcoming the language barrier, finding employment in my field, adjusting to life far from my family while also being constantly worried about them. Starting over from scratch in a new place was a big adjustment, and it all added up to a pretty tough time. But through it all, I made some big changes: I started learning the language, got a job, got used to living abroad, and met a lot of nice people along the way.

For my professional development, I ran into numerous obstacles. Initially, I had a hard time because my qualifications weren’t acknowledged. What is more, my German language skills were far from being perfect; I was inexperienced with Austrian organizations and didn’t have any connections within the local community. Unfortunately, I initially faced numerous job rejections due to my limited language skills, which prompted me to prioritize improving my proficiency in German. But when I saw other Ukrainians who found jobs or figured out similar situations, it really inspired and motivated me. Achieving professional success in Austria requires patience, support, and employers who are open to diverse backgrounds and experiences.

Having previously studied abroad on an Erasmus program in Finland, I entered Austria without many expectations, especially with safety being the top priority. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the level of organization and the willingness of people to lend assistance and support.

Despite having proficient English skills, I soon realized they weren’t sufficient for securing a job or pursuing further studies in Austria. I also noticed a higher degree of bureaucratic processes here. However, I really appreciated how they made sure to follow the rules and laws so diligently. Furthermore, I discovered that social services are well-developed in Austria, setting a positive example for societal care. Additionally, I met lots of people who were readily willing to offer help, even on the streets.

I am trying to use the experience and knowledge I gained in Ukraine for my life here in Austria, as I believe it’s something valuable. I receive support from my family in Ukraine, friends, and new acquaintances here. Moreover, I find energy in helping others and participating in activities that restore routine to my life, such as working, taking walks, reading, enjoying coffee, and spending time with people. I am also grateful for the social services provided by migrant organizations and the kindness of strangers I encounter along the way, all of which contribute to my well-being and adaptation to life in Austria.

The advice I would give to Ukrainians living abroad is to listen to yourself and trust your intuition. Remember that your current situation is temporary, and you are not alone in facing these challenges. Work on becoming independent by learning the language and taking advantage of any opportunities that come your way. Remember that your hard work will pay off in the future. Don’t forget to take care of yourself and stick to your values, both in your personal life and at work. These principles will guide you along your journey and contribute to your overall well-being and success.

PROFESSIONAL INTEGRATION HUB

I discovered the Professional Integration HUB program through Instagram, which immediately caught my interest. After reading more about it and following the program’s social media channels, I felt motivated to apply. I’m incredibly grateful that I did, as it has opened numerous opportunities for me, and I’m thrilled with my decision to participate.

My key expectations for the program were to gain experience in the social field in Austria, establish network connections, facilitate knowledge exchange between Austrians and Ukrainians, and complete the internship using the German language. I am pleased to say that the internship exceeded these expectations. Not only did it provide me with valuable experience, but it also allowed me to meet other interesting and inspiring people.

My impressions of the experience are remarkably positive. I strongly believe that the knowledge and skills we bring from our lives in Ukraine can greatly benefit organizations here, and vice versa. Personally, I feel that I have significantly developed my professional skills during this time. Having the chance to witness how organizations operate from the inside, has motivated me to continue growing and has reduced my concerns about not having mastered the language completely.

One major difference I’ve noticed is that in Austria, there are many processes aimed at preventing youth problems, supported significantly by the government. This proactive approach is something I view positively. In Ukraine, while there are numerous non-governmental organizations active in youth work, there aren’t enough informational centers specifically dedicated to youth-related issues.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned from the internship was the importance of observing how informational work with youth is organized. Seeing how the youth center works every day and the good it does for young people really showed me how important it is to keep working hard to support and empower them. This experience emphasized the importance of ongoing learning from others and the influence of effective youth-focused initiatives.

PLANS AFTER PARTICIPATING IN THE PROGRAM

The internship in the Professional Integration HUB program has significantly influenced my professional ambitions. It has motivated me to push myself further and pursue ongoing professional development opportunities in my current environment. I believe it’s essential to leverage my current skills and knowledge while remaining receptive to new learning opportunities and personal development in a foreign setting.

 

There are significant opportunities to implement European experience to help Ukraine, particularly in the field of working with young people. By adopting similar instruments and approaches used in European countries for youth development and support, Ukraine can create spaces where young people can access vital information and resources (for example through Youth centers – such services as consultations, trainings about financial literacy, media literacy, youth rights; exchange programs; services for parents, youth workers and everyone who works with youth). Investing in youth is investing in the future, and providing them with the necessary tools and opportunities can empower them to contribute positively to society.

In my opinion, this experience would be most valuable in the fields of social work and youth work. By focusing on supporting youth and providing opportunities for children to develop their skills and potential, Ukraine can lay a strong foundation for the future. Enhancing youth programs and social services can empower young people to become active and engaged citizens and contribute positively to the community’s welfare and prosperity in the long run.

 

 

11 June 2024

Kateryna Tymoshenko: “By combining our mutual efforts, we have power in our hands and can act more efficiently together”

Kateryna Tymoshenko, Professional Integration HUB program participant (Caritas Austria).

  • Age: 26 years old
  • City in Ukraine where you lived before the full-scale invasion (forced relocation): Kyiv
  • Specialization: Humanitarian aid 

PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND

Before the full-scale invasion, I provided translation and interpretation services and worked as a personal assistant at a private aviation company engaged in humanitarian, stabilization, and peacekeeping missions worldwide.

I worked in a very fast-paced environment and coordinated a large team of engineers. Unfortunately, natural disasters and violent conflicts occur frequently. I always needed to be ready to respond promptly and offer the administrative assistance required for the management of the team. 

Many of my former colleagues from the aviation company, that I worked for, are now defending our country. Friends of mine, who are linguists and translators, are actively engaged in aiding vulnerable communities and working on international development projects in Ukraine. Everyone is going above and beyond, dedicating as much effort as possible to stabilize the situation and restore peace and independence.

FORCED EMIGRATION

The war found me in Kyiv, Ukraine. It was supposed to be an ordinary working day, and nobody could believe that a war would start. However, like my fellow citizens, I awoke to the sound of explosions.

I spent a week in Kyiv, mostly in shelters, before deciding to leave for a safer place. I first went to Chernivtsi but later decided to move to Austria. During this time, I was also looking for ways to help my family in Chernihiv leave the city, which was partially occupied at that time.

Austria was the first country I went to following the full-scale invasion. I chose Austria because I knew some German, and it was not too far from Ukraine. At first, I believed I would be there for just a few weeks and return home soon.

LIFE IN AUSTRIA

It took some time and effort to stabilize and organize life in Austria, establish new social circles, get used to the way things work in areas such as healthcare and education, learn the German language, find housing, and more.

The language barrier was a significant challenge for my family. If you are not proficient in German, communication and integration can be difficult. It took a while to get used to everything and learn the language so we could communicate efficiently, connect with different institutions, and study and work.

I need to mention that we have been fortunate to meet many kind people in Austria and are deeply grateful for the incredible support from Austrian authorities and citizens. All of this has made our integration smoother.

What surprised and impressed me in my professional development and employment?

  • Legal requirements: Meeting the legal requirements for employment, such as nostrification of documents and language proficiency certifications, can be time-consuming. Getting acquainted with Austria’s labor laws and regulations proved challenging, particularly given the differences from those in Ukraine.
  • Differences in work culture: Adapting to the work culture and practices in Austria takes time, especially in a multicultural environment, when working together with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds.
  • Professional opportunities: I am exploring how my skills and expertise can be used successfully in the Austrian labor market, seeking professional opportunities, and considering how I can positively contribute to Ukraine’s future too.

My family and friends provide emotional support and encouragement in my daily life during emigration. Engaging in hobbies and maintaining an active lifestyle gives me a sense of fulfillment and helps me manage stress. Being involved in projects related to Ukraine allows me to stay connected with my homeland and make a meaningful contribution, bringing a sense of purpose and satisfaction to my daily life.

What advice would I give to the Ukrainians living abroad? Stay determined, keep pushing forward, and believe in yourself.

PROFESSIONAL INTEGRATION HUB

When I came across the advertisement on Facebook and read the details about the Professional Integration HUB program, I knew right away that it was exactly what I had been looking for – an opportunity to develop skills and expand my network.

 

My main objectives were to expand my network of contacts, connect with individuals who shared my interests, improve my knowledge and interpersonal skills, and advance my proficiency in German. I aimed to deepen my integration within the professional community and gain valuable insights into projects led by Austrian organizations with a focus on Ukraine. Those expectations stayed the same, and I’m happy to say they were pretty much met. Over the course of three months, I experienced a highly productive period and acquired valuable skills and knowledge.

My internship was great! As an intern in Corporate Fundraising and Philanthropy at Caritas Austria, I supported my team in attracting new partners and foundations. We developed initiatives that would help thousands of people worldwide, especially in my homeland, Ukraine. I greatly appreciate my team’s support and the opportunity to learn from experienced professionals. I hope that I will soon be able to contribute to the reconstruction of Ukraine with what I have learned here in Austria.

I was interested in learning more about the projects that Caritas implements in Ukraine, and I received tasks to research Ukrainian-related topics. I was also fortunate to have meetings with representatives from Caritas Ukraine, where I learned more about the current situation and their important work.

It is difficult to compare working in Ukraine with working abroad, as these experiences are quite different. I have changed fields and roles, so it is challenging to draw a clear conclusion. One notable difference is how organizations are structured. In Austria, they use a lot of digital tools and custom software to get work done faster. Employees have more independence in decision-making and greater responsibility. In Ukraine, there used to be more centralized control, requiring approval from management for various tasks. In today’s Ukraine, organizations and companies must quickly address new challenges, so I believe work processes have changed significantly.

On the other hand, employees in Ukraine tend to be more flexible and confident benefitting from the familiar environment and native language, which facilitates quicker access to information. When living abroad, language improvement is an aspect we always need to work on, but it is a rewarding challenge. I noticed that communication flowed more easily with Ukrainian colleagues because we shared a common language and cultural understanding. However, in Austria, where colleagues come from diverse cultural backgrounds and speak different languages, effective cooperation can take longer to establish. It requires effort and patience to find common ground and understand each other’s cultural nuances, but it also brings exceptional value. Diversity means celebrating a variety of experiences and perspectives.

The moment during the internship that left a lasting impression on me was when I assisted colleagues from a partner organization of Caritas Austria in Kharkiv in meeting the Austrian press. Despite difficult conditions and life-threatening situations, the Social Aid Service team in Kharkiv is accomplishing superhuman actions. Thanks to donations and public funds, they distribute food and hygiene packages, offer psychosocial support to children, support families, provide mobile care for the elderly, and more. The experiences shared by Ukrainian colleagues and the projects they undertake to support people show how they persevere and find strength in helping each other.

At the same time, in the meeting with donors, I observed genuine concern for the current situation in Ukraine and a willingness to offer support. By providing financial assistance, donors feel a sense of involvement and engagement. Fundraising is a very powerful instrument that connects people and brings value to society.

My internship provided a fascinating immersion into the Austrian professional landscape. Observing society through the lens of diverse institutions, NGOs, and organizations was eye-opening for me. It was not just about understanding the challenges, but also witnessing how these organizations tackle them through projects and collaboration that truly resonated.

My key insights include the importance of being open to each opportunity and open to communication with various people. By combining our mutual efforts, we have power in our hands and can act more efficiently together!

PLANS AFTER PARTICIPATING IN THE PROGRAM

I would like to develop and implement projects that will be beneficial for Ukrainian society and continue progressing in international partnerships and project management. With proficiency in multiple languages and experience collaborating with international teams, I believe I have the resources and skills to advance professionally and make a meaningful impact on the progress of Ukrainian society. 

In my opinion, the European experience would be particularly valuable for Ukraine in several areas. Firstly, implementing best practices in governance, education, healthcare, and infrastructure development can greatly contribute to Ukraine’s progress. Secondly, adopting European practices in organizational management and transparency could strengthen Ukrainian NGOs and institutions. Furthermore, learning from European fundraising strategies can help diversify funding sources and engage with partners more effectively. Partnering with European organizations enables access to expertise, resources, and larger networks. Overall, adopting European experience in these areas can significantly benefit Ukraine’s development journey and contribute to positive societal changes.

Series of Interviews with Participants of the Professional Integration HUB Program.

6 June 2024

Kateryna Tebiakina: “I’m excited to share the insights with the teams I used to work with back in Ukraine”

Kateryna Tebiakina, Participant of the Professional Integration HUB 1.0 internship program (European Forum Alpbach).

  • Age: 23 years old
  • City in Ukraine where you lived before the full-scale invasion (forced relocation): Kyiv
  • Specialization: BA in International Relations 

PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND

In Ukraine, I worked on international development projects. For three years, I was with the USAID RANG Program, which focused on advancing the “next generation” of reforms in the Verkhovna Rada. This program aimed to support the Rada in becoming a modern, effective institution that promotes accountability and democratic development. At the beginning of the war, we had to mobilize our efforts to contribute to the establishment of peace more quickly and to develop the diplomatic functions of the parliament. Currently, the sector of international development projects in Ukraine is experiencing significant growth, driven by an increase in humanitarian and educational initiatives.

FORCED EMIGRATION

A few weeks before the full-scale invasion, following the evacuation of the American embassy, USAID recommended that all its employees and projects move to safer areas. Therefore, I moved to Kropyvnitskyi, where I spent the first two weeks of the war. After those two weeks, I decided to temporarily move to Europe, choosing Austria somewhat spontaneously.

LIFE IN AUSTRIA

Even though life in Austria was quite hectic initially, I was very lucky to meet incredible people at every step of the way, with whom I could share my journey and who taught me a lot. I’m very grateful for the support from my friends and colleagues, as well as my family back in Ukraine.

And though life can be very uncertain, what really helped me adapt to the new reality was establishing a routine. Whether through school, university, or a job, having a structured daily life provides the stability needed in the often uncertain situation of emigration. Initially, life was dominated by lots of paperwork, misunderstandings over the phone, and endless appointments at various institutions. However, establishing a routine was crucial in helping me feel settled and somewhat in control.

PROFESSIONAL INTEGRATION HUB

I first heard about the Professional Integration Hub through a friend in Ukraine. She sent me a link and encouraged me to apply. Even though I already had a job, I was intrigued by the opportunity to meet new, inspiring people, so I decided to give it a shot. My experience with the HUB and the hosting organization turned out to be great.

At the European Forum Alpbach, I was greeted with a warm welcome. The team there was fantastic – supportive, enthusiastic, and genuinely passionate about their work. It was a pleasure to see them in action and to collaborate with such dedicated individuals.

My key expectation when joining the HUB was to meet great people, and I can confidently say this expectation was more than fulfilled.

PLANS AFTER PARTICIPATING IN THE PROGRAM

The biggest highlight for me at Alpbach was witnessing how a small team could plan and manage a massive two-week conference, hosting 4,000 people, one meeting at a time. Conferences and public events play a crucial role in international development and technical assistance projects, and I’m excited to share the insights with the teams I used to work with back in Ukraine. I believe many of these instruments and strategies will be extremely valuable to them.

Series of Interviews with Participants of the Professional Integration HUB Program.