In response to the current refugee crisis, increased funding was allocated to the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) earlier this year. Local Development Companies have used this funding to recruit Ukrainian speakers to work as development workers.
Many Ukrainians in Offaly have now found jobs or have enrolled in courses due to the appointment of Svitlana Osmachko as a Ukrainian support worker with Offaly Local Development Company (OLDC).
Reporter Ray Lucey interviewed Svitlana:
SVITLANA moved to Ireland in the springtime and commenced work here in late June. To date, she has witnessed a high success rate for applicants due to her involvement.
Her main role is as a translator for fellow refugees from Ukraine. She helps them to draft CVs and prepare for interviews. She played an integral part at the inaugural Offaly Jobs Fair held in Tullamore during the summer by assisting Ukrainians in securing employment and attaining course places.
She spoke to ‘Changing Ireland’ about her role and experiences.
Svitlana revealed that the two most common barriers to progression are often language and verification of qualifications – understandable considering that many left their certificates and degrees behind them as they fled. This is a particular difficulty for those seeking teaching positions.
She said that people arriving in Ireland after fleeing the war in Ukraine often don’t know how to continue work in their fields, so end up securing employment in completely different spheres.
“Some start with courses as they want to try something new. Almost all people try to find a job, because it’s very difficult to not do anything. Most of them are looking for jobs in cafes, shops, and some girls found a job in a factory.”
Svitlana previously taught English at the University of Economics in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, so the forced evacuation from her homeland led to a transformation in her career direction.
She spoke of her experiences before leaving and her subsequent hurried departure.
“It was a very spontaneous decision to come here after leaving our country because of fear,” she said. Svitlana chose Ireland as it is an English-speaking country, so she knew it would easier for her to get along with people.
“Irish people are very friendly and hospitable. It’s very pleasant to be among Irish. They like talking and we especially need communication at this time as we don’t have many people close to talk to”, Svitlana explained.
She left Kharkiv with virtually nothing and spoke highly of the support given to her on arrival by the Offaly Volunteer Centre.
“We spent four days and nights in a basement, so when we came home I couldn’t think properly. I left home with just a small rucksack. I didn’t have a suitcase because there were too many people on the train and we weren’t allowed to take them,” she said.
Svitlana alluded to the almost permanent issues that follow all Ukrainian refugees – that of homesickness and the uncertainty of their futures. Through her work and work by others in similar posts, they are at least able to make the lives of refugees more comfortable and stable during their time here.