In Finland, integration of Ukrainian refugees facilitated by work

Finns stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people. While the country facilitates their integration, among other things, through employment, it is also a way for Finland to solve, in part, the shortage of staff in the services.

Audio 03:41

From left to right: Johana Friman recruitment manager at SOL, Karina Lavrignenka Ukrainian refugee, Hekuran Jashari, supervisor at SOL, Susanna Piepponen, advisor at the Finnish Ministry of Economy and Employment. © Ariane Gaffuri / RFI

Text by: Ariane Gaffuri Follow


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It is no coincidence that Finland has opened its doors wide to Ukrainian refugees since the beginning of the Russian offensive. The country shares a 1,300-kilometre border with Russia to the east. It therefore has a common neighbor and also experienced the Russian invasion during the Second World War, during the Winter War.


I come from Rubierzhne, in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine. We were invaded by the Russians. To escape the war, we took the evacuation route, like many Ukrainians. It was that or die," says Karina Lavrignenka, in her thirties, who arrived in Finland last year with her husband. Both have chosen the country for the quality of its welcome and the beauty of its forests and lakes. Tall brunette beating, she is herself a force of nature. "We had contacted Finnish social services via Facebook before coming. We were hosted by a family for five months. They helped us with administrative procedures, finding housing and a job. We do housework in a school for Sol, a company providing maintenance services. ".

Integration through work

Karina Lavrigneka was previously a lawyer in Ukraine. Not being able to work in her area of expertise is a challenge for her." I prefer to work, no matter the field, so that I do not depend on government aid without doing anything. I'm like that. The two of us get by. We have to, because we want to stay here. And I am confident, little by little things will evolve in the right direction, "she philosophizes.

At Sol, Finland's number one cleaner, Karina Lavrignenka, earns the minimum wage, and enjoys the same rights as Finns. "All workers, no matter where they come from, not just Ukrainians, have the same rights as Finns. I come from Kosovo. At first, I found a job as a cleaner. That was eleven years ago. I climbed the ladder. I did not come under the same circumstances as the Ukrainians. It's harder for them than it was for me, but I understand them. I am in solidarity with what they are going through. My job is to give them instructions, to supervise them, but also to make sure that they have the same rights as everyone else here," says Hekuran Jashari, his supervisor.

Finland has granted residence permits to 48,000 Ukrainians under temporary protection, 33,000 of them are of working age and more than 5,200 have already found employment.

Learn Finnish to integrate and grow


Ukrainians have a good level of education. They are often graduates and have professional experience. There are doctors, engineers, but also farmers and many women who work in hairdressing or beauty care," says Susanna Piepponen, an adviser at the Ministry of Economy and Employment in Helsinki. "We have a shortage of manpower, in the medical sector or maternal help, for example," she continues. But for these jobs, you have to be able to communicate in Finnish or Swedish, our second official language. That is why we ask foreign nationals to attend compulsory Finnish language courses for one year, where they are also taught the basics of Finnish society. One year to learn Finnish is not enough, but then they will be able to practice the language in the workplace. Many of them want to stay in the country and if they speak Finnish, they will be able to integrate more easily," concludes Susanne Piepponen.

The Sol agency currently employs 14,000 people from all over the world. The Finnish company recently hired about thirty Ukrainians. To keep the new recruits, the company found them housing and furniture. If refugees wish, the company even helps them bring their families. "It's easy to hire Ukrainian workers because, because they're under temporary protection, they get a work permit right away," says Johanna Friman, Recruitment Manager at SOL. For non-European immigrants, on the other hand, it is much longer. Incleaning, knowing Finnish is not essential to start working, and we have supervisors who speak Russian.


"A friend advised us Helsinki"

This help is invaluable for Natalia Tsyba, who speaks neither Finnish nor English. Like many Ukrainians, Natalia Tsyba speaks Russian. This shy woman was a nursing assistant in a centre for the physically handicapped in Ukraine. At 66, she left everything in a hurry. "We lived in Pavlograd, in east-central Ukraine. The Russian army did not come to us, but there was shelling nearby and we were very scared. As the train was running, we took it to Warsaw and Warsaw, the plane to Helsinki. It was a friend who advised us Helsinki. She told us that the political situation was peaceful, that there were no conflicts. She arranged everything over the phone. So I came here with my daughter, my grandson and me," recalls Natalia Tsyba. Once she arrived in Finland, the housekeeper, "not a difficult job, but with too little salary", says she was helped by Finnish volunteers to find housing and work.

But adaptation in Finland is not easy, admits Natalia Tsiba, far from all her bearings. "My grandson, who is 13 years old, absolutely wants to stay in Finland. He tells me that he wants to come back to Ukraine for the holidays, but he wants to stay here to become a footballer. His parents will decide, but I will go back to Ukraine. »

However, Natalia is grateful for the welcome she received in Helsinki. "I like everything about Finland. Finns are welcoming. They are really very generous. The problem is that my family and my house are there," she says, her voice knotted. "All I want is for the war to end and for me to be able to go back. " Coming back to Ukraine, yes, but tears are already flowing at the thought of having to leave your grandson and daughter.

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