Refugees fleeing war in Ukraine finding support from startups and companies across the world

Refugees in Ukraine. Photo credit: Shutterstock.

Startups and companies across the world are rallying to help refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, as the country enters its third week under the brutal Russian assault.

More than two million refugees have fled Ukraine in just two weeks since Russia began its invasion of the country, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. The UN’s refugee chief, Filippo Grandi, is praising European countries for welcoming people who are fleeing from the war in Ukraine.

“Yet behind the warm welcome lies despair and unimaginable suffering,” Grandi said in a statement on Tuesday. “Behind the monolithic statistics are 2 million stories of separation, anguish, and loss.”

One of those stories is of 25-year-old Vlada Bulakh and her husband, Heorhii. The two were scheduled to fly back from Turkey to their apartment in Odessa the day the invasion began.

Odessa is a strategic port city, located on the Black Sea. Many people consider it the southern capital of Ukraine.

The couple had to re-route to a relative in Bulgaria. Now, they’re staying with “very kind people” in Switzerland who are providing them with shelter and food.

“We could barely sleep, and we’ve been very nervous,” Vlada Bulakh said. “I’ve felt enormous pressure on me right now, this burden of responsibility.”

Vlada Bulakh said they’re uncertain and worry of what could happen to Odessa in the coming days.

Bulakh said their friends in Odessa have spotted Russian military ships tens of miles off the shore, as well as enemy surveillance drones and fighter jet occasionally flying overhead. She said they’re preparing for the worst.

“We bought an apartment just before the war broke out,” she said. “So we invested all our savings into an apartment in Odessa.”

Now without work, Bulakh said they’ve been in contact with groups and companies which are trying to help.

“We don’t want to be a burden for anyone, so the very first thing we have to do is find a job and find a way to pay our bills here in Europe,” Bulakh said. Vlada Bulakh has experience as a business analyst.

One of the organizations trying to aid refugees is Consid AB. The Swedish company offers consulting services in IT, management and digital marketing. Consid started in 2000 and has nearly three dozen offices in Sweden.

“We are really personally involved,” Consid’s Head of Communications Nathalie Besèr said. The company in constant contact with 30 refugees, including Vlada Bulakh. “The reaction from Swedish people has been massive, we’ve had so many people saying they want to open their doors to Ukrainians.”

Their employees raised donations, which the company is matching, of more than SEK 250,000 total. Besèr says those contributions will go to War Child, which provides emergency psychosocial support to refugee children and their families.

“Several hundred job seekers in the first 10 days”

Groups outside of Europe are also trying to help Ukrainian refugees find employment in the countries which they fled to.

NYC-based Hire For Ukraine launched at the beginning of last week. The website serves as a resume board, so that refugee job seekers can post their profiles for recruiters. One of the people behind it, Fed Novikov, said they have many Ukrainian friends who’ve lost their jobs because of the war.

“All of their income was lost overnight,” Novikov said. “We realized it’s a problem that so many other Ukrainians would face, so we wanted to create this website.”

Within the first 10 days of its launch, Hire For Ukraine has more than 700 active job seeker profiles. Nearly 400 recruiters looking to hire refugees have signed onto the mailing list.

“There are other projects more focused on the job openings, but our focus is highlighting people, not vacancies,” Novikov said. “This way it’s easier on affected Ukrainians. In this case, we believe recruiters should make the extra effort and reach out to them.”

It’s this support that UN’s refugee chief Grandi said is imperative that the international community steps up to provide.

“All European states must continue to show generosity,” Grandi said. “Other countries, beyond Europe, also have an important role to play to help people in need and share the international responsibility for millions of refugees.”

If you would like to help Ukrainian refugees in need, you can donate to the United Nation’s Refugee Agency, here.

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