Three generations of Ukrainian women endure enduring exile in Austria

Refugees in Austria: Women’s Stories of Struggle and Hope Amidst Ongoing War

In February, Irina Simonova, Marina Troshchenko and Katia – a grandmother, mother and granddaughter – were forced to flee their home in Mikolaiv, Ukraine due to the dangerous war with Russia. Today, they are living together in Austria as refugees, trying to integrate into their new country while hopes of a quick return slowly fade.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that there are 6 million Ukrainian exiles in Europe, an unprecedented wave since World War II. Many of them had planned to stay only a few months but have been unable to return due to bombings, lack of progress on the front lines and the absence of a peace agreement.

Irina Simonova is the oldest member of the family at 64 years old and has dedicated herself to her favorite sport, volleyball. She formed a circle of friends within the organization Diakonie, which advises around 80,000 Ukrainian refugees in Austria. Meanwhile, daughter Katia is completing her studies remotely with the aim of obtaining her Austrian high school diploma in 2025.

Sarah Brandstetter, operator of Diakonie’s center notes that many Ukrainian refugees are now choosing to stay and build their future in Austria rather than wait for a quick return home. However, women whose husbands are still on the front lines face challenges such as finding time to find jobs and learn the language while volunteers struggle to provide support due to limited resources. Christoph Riedl, migration and integration expert for Diakonie highlights that higher inflation and rising energy prices have added strain on Austrians who have taken up temporary housing for refugees. He suggests that EU should define a permanent status for Ukrainians who until March 2025 enjoy temporary protection which allows them access to job market housing and social assistance.

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