Ukrainian refugees’ new life in Italy after escaping. “Autonomy also comes through work.”

Redattore Sociale, in collaboration with Acri, tells Liubov Bastriukova’s story: she has just found a job in a second-hand store thanks to the project AVSI started in July to foster job integration for Ukrainians fleeing the war.

Date 28.12.2022
Author Redattore sociale / Photos by Mattia Marzorati for AVSI

Liubov Bastriukova is 24 years old and comes from Kharkiv. She fled her country six months after the outbreak of the conflict. At first she tried to hold on, she didn't want to leave her home. But the constant bombings, blackouts and ever-increasing dangers pushed her to leave. She decided to come to Italy, where a family in San Donato Milanese, in the Lombardy region, was ready to take her in. As of February 24 to date, 171,000 Ukrainian refugees have already arrived in our country. Most are being hosted by friends and relatives who were already here, or by Italian families, like Liubov, outside of institutional reception.

Since October, the young woman has been working in a store in the northern part of Milan, selling second-hand clothes. She really enjoys this job, since she worked as a saleswoman in Ukraine, too. Her relationship with her new colleagues also works well, and allows her to improve her already fluent spoken Italian. "Thanks to this job, I have new prospects for the future: I will make myself independent and one day I hope I'll be able to live with my two families, my Italian and Ukrainian one."

In Ukraine, Liubov Bastriukova has left many friends, her mother, and her boyfriend, a little older than her, who is fighting in the army. Every day she hopes the war will end soon. Meanwhile, her visits to Kharkiv get fewer and fewer due to the increasing risks. "I would like to keep living in Italy, this country has become my second home."

Liubov is one of 70 people (mostly women) supported by AVSI throgh to the project "Support for the independence and integration of Ukrainian refugees" (“Sostegno all’autonomia e integrazione dei profughi ucraini”), which was created to help refugees in their process towards integration and self-sufficiency in Italy after having escaped the war.
The project was launched in July 2022 thanks to the support provided by Acri - the organisation representing Foundations of banking origin and Savings Banks. It has facilitated the access to the job market for Ukrainian refugees through orientation, training and coaching paths, while maintaining a focus on work-family balance. In fact, mothers who have arrived in Italy with their children need support in order to be able to combine their family life with potential jobs.

A path of ongoing guidance for Ukrainian refugees in Milan

"One of the greatest obstacles to integration are the difficulties in accessing the labor market" Stefano Sangalli, head of this Job Placement Project for AVSI, points out. "A sufficient knowledge of Italian is one of the basic requirements to introduce people to the workforce. For this reason, the project activities include language courses, in which specialized teachers, interpreters and/or language mediators support the attendees. Similarly, modules dedicated to soft skills enhancement or self-empowerment are offered, so that the course participants can acquire fundamental skills such as communication and creativity. Goal setting and the capacity of achieving one's objectives is, for example, also one of the many different aspects these courses delved into."

In addition, the project combines work mentoring with family mentoring, specifically through measures aimed at ensuring work-family balance for Ukrainian mothers. "Many mothers came to Italy together with their children, and for this reason the project intends to activate welfare programs to make the mothers' integration in Italy sustainable," AVSI's spokesperson continues. "As a matter of fact, from their very first job interview and throughout the process of training and work placement, mothers can count on qualified professionals who can take care of their children”.

More project-related activities include awareness-raising actions addressed to private companies, profiling and orientation activities, a matching process to link labor supply and demand, targeted training and the activation of internships, which is why AVSI has also kicked off the #HelpUkraine work desk in Milan and in the provinces of Forlì-Cesena and Rimini. So far, 70 Ukrainian refugees, mostly mothers with their children, have benefited from this project, hosted by families or in public reception facilities. Overall, the activities currently involve 50 refugees in the province of Milan and 20 in the provinces of Forlì-Cesena and Rimini.