Ukrainian refugees: New home Germany – close and yet foreign

As of: October 15, 2023 1:20 p.m

Arrived, integrated, working – many Ukrainians want to live and work in Germany for a longer or permanent period, according to a study. But the fact that the two countries are so different is a challenge.

Pavlo Kovalskyi is a start-up consultant in Saarbrücken. A year and a half ago, the Ukrainian was suddenly unable to return to his home country because of the war. He was on a skiing holiday in Austria with his family.

He ended up in Saarland through friends. The 36-year-old now has an 80 percent position there as a start-up consultant at the Institute for Technology Transfer at HTW Saar and helps other Ukrainians gain a foothold in the German job market.

Pavlo Kovalskyi wants to stay in Germany with his family.

He now speaks German well and can earn his own living. His wife Bogdana Gusar is trying to make a name for herself as an artist and their eight-year-old daughter Mia is in the second grade of a primary school. They are proud of not having to claim social benefits, feel comfortable in Saarbrücken and want to stay. So successful integration.

Almost 50 percent want to stay

According to the study “Refugees from Ukraine in Germany” (IAB-BiB/FReDA-BAMF-SOEP survey), 44 percent of those surveyed said they wanted to stay at least for a few more years or perhaps forever. These are the results of the second survey wave of the study from the beginning of 2023. Around three quarters have found private accommodation and around a fifth are employed. And the proportion of those who want to start work in the near future is even higher.

This is also confirmed by Kovalskyi, who advises and supports his compatriots in their start-up projects. He now knows a lot about the differences between Ukraine and Germany – especially from an economic perspective. “Ukraine is a super young capitalist country and Germany is a developed, very bureaucratic country. In Ukraine you can do everything quickly – even start a business. 15 minutes online. You already pay tax. That’s it.”

Bureaucracy makes this difficult independence

For him, work is the key to successful integration. “Many systems work well in Germany and for people who want to have a normal, quiet life with work – so permanent work but with limited hours – it can be a very relaxed country,” says Kovalskyi. “I don’t know if all entrepreneurs want to stay here because the bureaucracy is so complicated. But for people who want to work as employees, this is a great country.”

Views that Michael Burda from the Humboldt University in Berlin also shares. “Starting a business in Ukraine is very unbureaucratic because the tax burden is lower and the tax authorities are less strong, but it also opens the door to corruption more easily. For the honest founder, Ukraine is a great country.”

Employment relationships, on the other hand, are less advantageous. The wage level in Ukraine is low due to the many state-owned companies. After secession from the Soviet Union, Ukraine was still an economically developing country, said the economist.

Kovalskyi was a management consultant in Ukraine for 15 years. “Employers there are primarily looking for motivated or experienced employees. Training is secondary. In Germany, on the other hand, nothing works without the right qualification,” he says. On the other hand, he is enthusiastic about the German social security system: “If there are difficulties, you are on your own in Ukraine. Here you have the opportunity to live.”

Mystery data protection

There is only one thing Kovalskyi doesn’t understand in his new home: data protection. “Everyone walks around with cell phones, is constantly tracked, reveals everything about themselves – and at the same time you are not allowed to pass on any data.” But he is adapting to the customs of his new home and has also gotten used to the “semi-digitalization” in this country: “Germany loves paper and I will now collect my bills for the next ten years.”

The 36-year-old is now hoping for a full-time job in Saarland. And German citizenship is also an issue for him and his family. “I hope it works somehow at some point. I speak German quite well, have a job, my family doesn’t get any help from the state. Maybe I can get citizenship at some point. But that’s still a long way away.”

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