The city of Lodz in Poland, and the city of Timisoara in Romania have demonstrated remarkable efforts in welcoming and integrating Ukrainian refugees since the Russian invasion. In this article, we will delve into the experiences of Ukrainian refugees in each city, exploring the comprehensive support mechanisms they have established.
Supportive initiatives in Lodz
In the past, Lodz attracted long-term migrants through its universities, employment opportunities, and favourable living conditions. The process of obtaining permanent residence in Lodz was notably efficient, making it an attractive destination for those seeking stability. The outbreak of conflict in Ukraine has shifted the motivations for migration, with the war becoming a significant driving factor.
The city’s response to the influx of Ukrainians demonstrates a commitment to humanitarian values and comprehensive integration. The city has established various support mechanisms to aid refugees in their journey towards a new life. In the initial stages of the conflict, Lodz swiftly provided medical assistance and designated schools and kindergartens to cater to Ukrainian children, regardless of their Polish language proficiency. Language support, psychological aid, and pedagogical assistance were offered to ensure a smooth transition.
To address the economic aspects of integration, Lodz offered more than 2,000 job opportunities for refugees, recognizing the importance of financial independence. The establishment of help points throughout the city, along with helplines for housing assistance, further exemplifies Lodz’s commitment to holistic support.
Financial aid, Polish language courses, vocational training, and integration activities like workshops and excursions have played a crucial role in facilitating the integration process. Lodz’s dedication to refugees extended beyond its borders, as material assistance was sent to Ukraine, showcasing solidarity even from a distance.
Challenges and Aspirations
Both long-term Ukrainian residents in Lodz and those who sought refuge from conflict have found employment opportunities, albeit in professions of lower prestige than their previous occupations. Many are employed in roles that do not require high qualifications, such as production workers, cleaners, shop employees, and taxi drivers.
Lodz offered more than 2,000 job opportunities for refugees
While the journey of integration has been progressive, challenges persist. Notably, 53.9% of Ukrainian refugees in Lodz have no definite intentions of staying in the city. A significant proportion, 26.1%, plans to return to Ukraine. Nonetheless, 15.4% of refugees envision their future in Lodz, underscoring the positive impact of the city’s integration efforts.
Timisoara: embracing Ukrainian refugees
In the initial stages of the conflict, Timisoara swiftly established a support centre, collaborating with local NGOs and volunteers to assist the influx of refugees. A team of 25 employees from the Social Assistance Department worked tirelessly to ensure the well-being of incomers.
As the situation evolved, Timisoara’s commitment remained steadfast. A dedicated team of seven individuals, including licensed social workers with experience with vulnerable groups, was established to support refugees and migrants with legal status. This team’s efforts have impacted around 4,000 Ukrainian refugees, showcasing the city’s determination to offer aid.
Holistic support in Timisoara
Timisoara's efforts have impacted around 4,000 Ukrainian refugees
Timisoara’s support program is multifaceted, encompassing various dimensions of refugee life. For the first year, financial benefits were provided to hosts to accommodate Ukrainian refugees, ensuring that living conditions met minimal standards. However, the most recent programme transfers financial support directly to refugees and requires proof of integration efforts, such as job-seeking or enrolling children in education.
The team’s responsibilities extend to assisting refugees with school enrollment, job search, and accessing medical services. Collaborations with NGOs provide additional avenues of support, including psychological counselling and material assistance.
Both Lodz and Timisoara have not only demonstrated dedication within their borders but have also engaged in international cooperation. For example, Timisoara’s participation in the WELDI Action Planning Network, alongside other European cities and regions, underscores the commitment to effective integration and reception conditions for newcomers.
The experiences of Ukrainian refugees in Lodz and Timisoara highlight the significance of humanitarian response and comprehensive support mechanisms in times of crisis. Both cities have extended a welcoming hand, embracing refugees with empathy and dedication.
*Photo credits: Patryk Wacławiak, UMŁ