From Pizzerias to Tech Startups, Ukrainian Refugees Trickle

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Galyna Paliychuk had big plans for 2022. She was going to write a book and develop a business she had recently started in her native Kyiv.

Shoes and no computer

While she was on a one-week visit with her sister in Berlin in late February, Russia invaded Ukraine. The airline canceled her flight home and she found herself marooned in Germany with three shirts, a pair of jeans, a pair of shoes and no computer.

“I realized I wasn’t going to accomplish anything or help anybody if I sat around crying in my sister’s apartment, so I got myself together, tapped into my network and started looking for a job,” said Ms. Paliychuk, 34, a lawyer and tech-sector executive before the war.

At least 400,000 Ukrainian refugees have found work in Europe since the start of the war, including more than 200,000 in Poland, nearly 100,000 in the Czech Republic and about 20,000 in Italy, according to the governments in those countries.

More than 5 million Ukrainians have sought refuge in the European Union, where 3.7 million have applied for a special program allowing them to work, attend school and access medical care across the bloc for three years. Now, as the war grinds into its sixth month, some refugees are taking jobs in Europe’s labor market that were often proving hard to fill.

Europe has faced labor shortages in recent years, a combination of decades of low birthrates and a mismatch between available workers and the advanced skills companies are increasingly demanding. The Covid-19 pandemic further upended the labor market by first sending unemployment soaring during lockdowns and then falling as economies reopened.

Highly skilled Ukrainian tech workers have taken jobs at Amazon.com Inc., Vodafone GroupPLC and other companies in Europe. Ukrainian entrepreneurs are starting businesses in Denmark, the Netherlands and elsewhere. Lisbon, which was a popular spot for the Ukrainian diaspora before the war, is attracting Ukrainian tech startups that have fled Kyiv.

The EU launched a version of an online initiative that matches skilled workers with job vacancies specifically for Ukrainian refugees. The bloc set up other resources to help job seekers and translated into Ukrainian a program that helps people create an online résumé and cover letter that can be used to apply for jobs across the EU.

In 2011, Anna Petrova founded Startup Ukraine, an organization that offers services to entrepreneurs. When she ended up in Denmark after the Russian invasion, she wanted to tap into her extensive experience helping Ukrainian startups. “Entrepreneurship is a way for Ukrainians to achieve financial independence while also creating jobs for others,” she said.

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Source: WSJ

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