Fostering opportunities for Ukrainians

24 August 2023

“We want to do everything we can to ensure that as many people as possible who have been forced to flee Ukraine can find opportunities in Helsinki,” says Juhana Vartiainen, Mayor of Helsinki. Amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, Riga and Helsinki are some of the cities that have become new homes for those fleeing the war. Both cities have taken significant strides in receiving and integrating Ukrainian refugees, offering shelter and pathways to a new life filled with opportunities.

Rekrytori Ukraina: Helsinki’s job fair

The City of Helsinki has proactively offered assistance to Ukrainians seeking employment, focusing on improving job opportunities for residents and companies. The city views recruitment events like the Rekrytori Ukraina as crucial in bringing employers and people looking for jobs together. “In our experience, companies in Helsinki are keen to offer jobs to people from Ukraine, but there have been challenges in bringing employers and Ukrainian job seekers together,” says Vartiainen.

Last March, the event brought together different operators offering job opportunities, catering to the diverse talents and skills of those compelled to leave their homeland due to the conflict. The city played a prominent role in the event, showcasing various opportunities within its departments. By participating, the administration communicated that Helsinki is an ideal place for Ukrainians to build a new life.

Participants at the fair (c) Mikko Honkala

At the event, employers and job seekers accessed a range of different offers, including a CV workshop and a job noticeboard, which featured QR codes for easy access to job listings. Ukrainian, Russian, and English language support ensured effective communication and understanding.

The Rekrytori Ukraina event was a collaborative effort involving a vast network of authorities and voluntary parties. Organisations like the Ukrainian Association in Finland, Lippulaiva Ukraine Help Center, and the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare have played pivotal roles in ensuring the event’s success.

In its debut year in Helsinki, Rekrytori Ukraina attracted around 100 employers, communities, and educational institutions, offering approximately 10,000 openings for eager job seekers. This event, a testament to the collective goodwill of both public and private sectors, exemplifies the commitment of Helsinki to provide Ukrainians with the chance to rebuild their lives while simultaneously contributing to Finland’s workforce and cultural diversity.

Riga’s Support Centre for Ukrainian Residents

The Riga City Council has established its own Support Centre for Ukrainian Residents in the heart of the city. This unique one-stop agency offers a broad panel of services to refugees – from administrative to integrational – and various areas of support from NGOs.

The centre has also secured funding from several external sources, including the US Embassy and private foundations, to enhance its efforts further. This financial backing will provide additional Latvian language training and crucial psychological support to Ukrainian civilians throughout 2023 and 2024.

“Latvia is one of the most determined supporters of Ukraine in its fight for freedom. In the first days of the war, Riga’s priority was to cater to the basic needs of the arriving Ukrainian civilians. Over time this support has become much more versatile, and we have launched a set of integrational services to enable Ukrainians to become an integral part of Latvian society, for as long as this support is needed,” says Linda Ozola, Deputy Mayor of Riga.

One of the standout initiatives by the centre has been the organisation of regular job fairs. It has already organised 22 of these, presenting 4,505 vacancies to keen job seekers. The impact is undeniable, with approximately 1,500 Ukrainians finding employment through these exchanges, enabling them to build a stable and secure life in Latvia.

Through a collaboration with the association Tavi Draugi, the centre has also created a space where Ukrainians and Latvians gather in an open atmosphere to share interests and experiences. From an English language club to creative activities like needlework, this ‘Guest Room’ fosters cultural exchange and camaraderie.

Riga and Helsinki have offered refuge and taken active steps to ensure that Ukrainians fleeing the war find their place in new communities, armed with opportunities and a brighter future.


Wilma Dragonetti Eurocities Writer