"In the morning we woke up, and the war started", Tonya, a Ukrainian, talking in the office in Brussels, where she has been working over the past months. Tonya looks back on the last year and the assistance from the European Union which has helped her settle in the country. 24 February marks one year since Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine. Tonya and her family, like many others, thought the aggression and violence would be over in a few days “but as we know, this month it will be one year,” she says.
"We didn’t want to go abroad, we wanted to be safe, we wanted to be together, and then we realised it would be more and more violent", Tonya remembers looking back.
In the beginning we went to Moldova, Romania then Hungary and in the end we came to Belgium, says Tonya. She is from Odesa, where she lived with her parents, her husband and daughter.
After the decision to flee, the next immediate concern for many parents, as well as Tonya was her daughter and her daughter’s future. The response by Europe and the international community was unequivocal in its support to people fleeing the violence. A key part of that response has been the unanimous decision to activate the Temporary Protection Directive on 4 March 2022, just one week after the start of the war.
"As soon as we came, we received our temporary protection and it was really helpful because with this card I could find a job", Tonya says.
This way EU Member States gave immediate protection to people fleeing the war. Temporary protection allowed and continues to allow people fleeing the war to register in any country in the EU with the right to access housing, health services, education and work. Since the start of the aggression, around 4 million registrations for temporary protection have been made across the EU.
Starting at a new school
Everything I am doing, I am doing for my daughter. She is my whole purpose of being here. She is 6 and this year it was really complicated, Tonya explains. She recounts how her daughter went to a local school with an experience in integration of migrants who do not speak the local language. She was the only one from Ukraine and the school was supporting and helping her in this difficult situation.
The EU has encouraged Member States to welcome children in local schools. More than 700 000 Ukrainian students have been integrated into the national school systems in the past year. Some Member States hired Ukrainian-speaking support teachers, added Ukrainian textbooks in schools and libraries and provided dedicated information material for Ukrainian parents.
Throughout the year, Ukrainian authorities worked with schools and education authorities in Member States to ensure that the Ukrainian curriculum, online resources and inclusion in a new host-country school can supplement each other.
Starting a new job
One of the immediate temporary protection rights is access to the labour market in Europe. More than 1.1 million people are in employment as a result.
For example, Tonya started searching for work online and found a job in Brussels which helps assist other Ukrainians. She works for Junior Achievement Europe as a junior associate on all projects connected with Ukraine.
Emotional and looking back over the year Tonya laments “I want to go home.”
It is still hard to look ahead but when asked about the future Tonya’s response is forceful, "I believe that one day, it will be over and we will come back home and rebuild Ukraine all together", she says.
Over the past year, EU Member States worked together to welcome people fleeing Russian aggression against Ukraine.. As a large number of those fleeing were women and children, special attention was given to their needs, for instance by putting in place childcare for working mothers and ensuring safe living conditions.
A lot has been achieved in the past year, but one of the most striking results however, has been how Europeans opened their arms and homes to welcome all those in need.
EU Solidarity with Ukraine: 1 year of Ukrainian resistance
Migration management: Welcoming refugees from Ukraine
An Anti-Trafficking Plan to protect people fleeing the war in Ukraine
Ukraine: EU support to help Member States
EUAA Response to the Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Introducing temporary protection
Council Directive 2001/55/EC on minimum standards for giving temporary protection
- 24 Februar 2023
- Generaldirektoratet for Migration og Indre Anliggender