The Exile of Three Generations
Irina, Marina, and Katia, a grandmother, mother, and granddaughter respectively, had to flee their hometown of Mikolaiv in southern Ukraine due to the escalating war with Russia. Now, they are living in exile in Austria, struggling to integrate into a new culture while their hopes of a quick return to Ukraine grow dimmer with the ongoing conflict. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that this family is part of a wave of 6 million Ukrainian exiles in Europe, the likes of which haven’t been seen since World War II.
A New Life in Austria
Marina Troshchenko, the mother of the family, works as a cashier at a local supermarket, a job she was able to secure after many rejections. Her daughter, Katia, is attending a Viennese high school and aiming to graduate in 2025, while Irina Simonova, the grandmother, has found companionship in a local volleyball team. Despite the difficulties, Marina is proud of what they have achieved in the past two years.
Facing the Future
While many Ukrainian refugees in Austria, like Marina, Katia, and Irina, are integrating and building a future in their new country, others are finding it more difficult. Women whose husbands are fighting in the war often struggle to find work and learn the language. And as the conflict drags on, the initial wave of solidarity is waning.
The Burden on Host Countries
According to Christoph Riedl, a migration and integration expert, the situation is also becoming increasingly difficult for Austrians who have opened their homes to refugees. Rising inflation and energy costs are exacerbating the issue. In Germany, which is hosting over a million refugees, local municipalities are struggling to cope with the influx.
A Demographic Challenge
The EU may need to consider granting permanent status to Ukrainian refugees, who currently have temporary protection until March 2025. This would allow them to fully integrate into their host countries, which is often necessary when conflicts drag on for years. However, this could pose a demographic challenge for Ukraine, which could lose a significant portion of its population.
The Hope for Return
Despite the challenges, many Ukrainian refugees, including Katia, hope to return to their home country one day. “It will be very important to be able to go back and rebuild Ukraine, a new modern country that will be part of the EU,” says Katia. However, she acknowledges that this dream may be a long way off, and she will likely remain in Vienna for her university studies.