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Irina, Marina, and Katia are a grandmother, mother, and granddaughter originally from Mikolaiv, southern Ukraine. However, the dangerous war with Russia forced them to flee their city of origin and find refuge in Austria. Despite the difficulties they faced in settling into a new country, the three women have worked hard to integrate into the local community.

Marina found a job as a head cashier at a supermarket after working her way up from the bakery department. Her daughter Katia is currently studying remotely at a Viennese high school with the goal of obtaining an Austrian high school diploma by 2025. Irina has taken up volleyball as her hobby and has formed a circle of friends. Together, they have managed to find an apartment and make the most out of their new lives in Austria.

The situation for Ukrainian refugees is complicated due to the ongoing conflict with Russia. The initial wave of solidarity for refugees has waned, making it difficult for volunteers to help women find jobs and learn the language. The burden on Austrians who have opened their homes to refugees is also growing, leading to concerns about the long-term impact on local communities hosting refugees.

In neighboring Germany, which is home to over one million refugees, there is immense pressure on municipalities to receive and support them. This pressure has fueled anti-immigration rhetoric as more asylum seekers from other countries continue to arrive in Germany. The EU must define a permanent status for Ukrainian refugees before their temporary protection status expires in 2025. Many refugees may have no choice but to resign themselves to rebuilding their lives in their host countries as the conflict continues with no clear end in sight.

The Ukrainian authorities are also concerned about the potential demographic challenges that could arise if refugees do not return home soon enough. To address this issue, UNHCR has established various initiatives such as online courses for students and opportunities for refugees to travel back and forth between Ukraine and Austria or Germany.

Katia hopes that one day she will be able to return home to Ukraine and help rebuild her beloved country but she’s also preparing herself for life in Vienna as she studies towards obtaining an Austrian high school diploma.

Overall, Irina, Marina

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