Ukraine refugees encouraged to find jobs as war exodus slows

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — As the number of people fleeing Ukraine slows, authorities in Poland and other neighboring nations are encouraging refugees from the war to find jobs, especially in health care and education.

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR reported Thursday that the daily number of arrivals recorded by the countries that border Ukraine dropped below 40,000 on Wednesday, the fewest s ince Russian troops invaded five weeks ago.

Poland’s Border Guard registered more than half of the new arrivals, maintaining a pattern seen since the start of the war. Of the conflict’s more than 4 million refugees, almost 2.4 million went to Poland, according to the country’s border agency. It’s Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Humanitarian organizations and other observers have attributed the slowing of the Ukrainian exodus in recent days to several possible factors, including residents of surrounded and besieged cities having no way to safely evacuate. Others may be reluctant to leave their homes and hoping to wait out the hostilities, observers say.

A spokesperson for Poland’s Border Guard, Anna Michalska, said the numbers could pick up again if Russian attacks continue.

Recent legislation passed in Poland allows refugees from Ukraine to obtain ID numbers that entitle them to free medical care, education, social benefits and the right to work for 18 months.

Many Poles are putting up refugees in their homes or volunteering in civic groups that bring all sorts of assistance.

Refugees in Warsaw have submitted about 700 applications and some 100 have been hired for jobs in the Polish capital’s medical centers and schools, according to city officials.

To boost the employment drive, Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski and Deputy Mayor Renata Kaznowska met Thursday with the director of the Bielanski Hospital and some Ukrainian and Polish staff members.

“Our guests are full of fortitude, they want to start to help us right away, they want to find jobs,” Trzaskowski told a news conference.

Kaznowska said employment and professional activity were the best way to integrate the adults who have fled Ukraine into Polish society.

Educators are also needed to help thousands of refugee children adjust to their new school environment, where lessons are taught in Polish and where the curriculum is largely different from the one in Ukraine. Adjusting the school system will cost over 440,000 zlotys ($105,000) in Warsaw alone, city authorities said.

Two nurses who are in the hiring process, speaking in Ukrainian mixed with Polish, said they appreciated the chance to continue their careers.

Olena Halych had to fight back tears as she spoke of fleeing home near shelled Bucha “to save my children.”

“I want to truly thank people in Poland for offering us shelter,” Halych said in Ukrainian. “I have found a job at the Bielanski Hospital, I want to really thank you for that.”

Hospital director Dorota Galczynska-Zych said the new recruits have provided valuable skills, and added that language has not been a barrier.

Some 570,000 refugees have reached Warsaw, a city of some 1.8 million, and some 300,000 remain in the capital for now, Trzaskowski said.

In Romania, which has received over 608,000 refugees, 35-year-old Uliana Polyakova from Odessa was busy Thursday registering at the Brasov city refugee center’s integration office that helps find accommodation, jobs and access to social assistance.

“Some people told me to arrive here at the center … in case we need medicine or something else,” she said, as her 7-year-old son enjoyed some screen-time nearby. “(A) Romanian family invited us to live with them. I did not expect that Romania is so kind to Ukrainians.”

“We’re not here because we want to leave Ukraine, me and my husband want to live with our relatives in Odessa,” she said. “I hope that the war is over in two weeks, one month, and we will go home.”

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Stephen McGrath in Brasov, Romania, contributed to this report.

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Follow all of AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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