Hard times don’t ask if you’re ready or not. The war divided my family, separating my husband from me and our daughter”. One too many times, since last February, we read testimonials similar to this one.

But Kateryna tried to be pragmatic. When the war in Ukraine started, she knew she had to look for a new home.

Cosmic conspiracy and a brave heart

Image at sunset of Prague in Czech Republic. Two bridge are at the front and the city center lit up at the back.
Photo by @olehmorhun on Unsplash

With a little cosmic push, “the universe led me to Czech Republic”. The country opened its doors and Kateryna and her young daughter moved over. Among those peaceful, lush valleys there still was hope to find both a job and a (new) roof.

Kateryna believes in magic and English did the trick. “[English] helped me find a friend who helped me solve all the problems by translating from Czech”.

With time, not only did she manage to navigate Czech bureaucracy, but a local owner of a flower shop hired her. He was, at that stage, the one person who could communicate with Kateryna. None of the other girls working alongside her spoke English. 

“There are good people everywhere, but you have to find a key to each one. Language is the first step to mutual understanding.” Thankfully, she did find that key with that generous florist through a language native to neither, and started to make a living. 

Melting barriers and building confidence

It’s hard to say where I came across SPEAK”. Sometimes life has unexpected ways to show you the way. Kateryna joined a language group through SPEAK for Ukraine. Confirmation on the group’s schedule came just after. She cannot recall how long it took, but the moment the sessions started, she immediately noticed their power and potential.

Kateryna and her daughter

“I felt all the magic of the project when my language barrier, perhaps even more psychological, began to fall.”

The choice of attendees in her group was not left to fate. It purposefully included all female participants whose husbands had stayed behind to fight for their country. A uniform linguistic starting point mattered, but even more did the stories all those women shared.

If the group was different, Kateryna knows the effects would not have resonated as loud as they did. “I don’t know how I would feel in a class with a whole family, when you understand that you are being compared.” 

English was the way to melt barriers, however not being exposed to unnecessary judgement cemented her confidence.

An empathic buddy and a chance to be heard 

Another player in Kateryna’s story was Patrick, her buddy at SPEAK for Ukraine.  

“[Patrick] is an extremely subtle person, he always understands the fears of our situation and the difficulties of the language we are learning”. Thanks to his delicate mediation, the group boosted their connection and fostered new friendships. 

Each process of social integration in a new community has its own timeline. Be it a language, a job or a friendly face, the transition into a new context relies on those elements.

Through her work and by joining SPEAK, the war in Ukraine she fled from got a little bit blurrier, her support network grew and her voice was amplified. Little by little she succeeded in rebuilding a place her daughter and herself could call home again.

“In a foreign country, with no chance of support, it is extremely nice to meet twice a week just to talk. It doesn’t matter how good your grammar is when you understand and can be heard. My gratitude to the platform is limitless”.

Support SPEAK for Ukraine

Kateryna and her daughter are among millions who had no choice but to leave their hometown due to the war in Ukraine. Like Kateryna, Iryna also had to flee Ukraine earlier this year. She now lives in Poland and helps her compatriots learn the Polish language as a buddy

SPEAK for Ukraine’s goal is to support integration through language and emotional support. We connect refugees, volunteers, and organizations in order to ease refugees’ assimilation into their host communities.
You can be part of the impact. Help thousands of refugees integrate into your country through our SPEAK for Ukraine program.  Sign up as a buddy to share your local language with them and make them feel at home again.

Author: Valentina Rampazzo

Valentina is a polyglot and a culture deep diver. She has lived in 5 countries across Europe and has most recently joined SPEAK as a Copywriter Intern. Her passions are her plants, plant-based cooking and writing.

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