Who Returns to Ukraine and Why: Three Stories of Displaced Persons

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19:02, 10.05.2023

Why Ukrainians return home during war: Three refugee stories.

Sociological surveys show that the majority of Ukrainians plan to return home after the war. In particular, a survey by the Center for Economic Strategy and Info Sapiens research agency showed that 50% of Ukrainians definitely plan to return home. The main stimulus for the Ukrainians to come back was the end of the war (51%) and the absence of air strikes in the home region (34%). Economic factors are also important: the opportunity to find a well-paid job (28%) and higher standard of living in Ukraine (20%).

But then what motivates Ukrainians to return home now that the war is going on? The participants of the Vidnova Fellowship Ukraine, a project created to support active citizens who decided to return to their home country, shared their experiences.

The founder of the eco-brand "3,14BAN" Kateryna Uvarova has spent 5 months in Germany

We decided to come back, I wanted to continue working in Ukraine. It is more complicated abroad: in order to close one issue, you have to bring, print an unreal amount of documents, and it is all in paper form. After our Diyya, it is, frankly speaking, a culture shock. I am from Kharkiv and I want to go back there, but for now I am staying in Lviv. Upon arrival to Ukraine I noticed that the city is overcrowded. Not at all like it was in February 2022. Prices have risen for everything, from fares in a minibus to the price of bread. At the same time, acquaintances who spoke Russian in everyday life have begun to speak Ukrainian. Everyone is trying to help, understanding and compassion is palpable. I came back to Ukraine, to a comfortable place to work and live. Even during the war I felt more comfortable at home than abroad. Now I am doing something that was planned before the full-scale war - I am designing new handbags from banners. ," says Ekaterina Uvarova.

Since her return, the entrepreneur has developed packaging from the remnants of plywood production, bracelets with spent cartridges, and candlesticks. The recycled products are sent to auctions abroad, with the proceeds going to the VSU. Ekaterina also gives free lectures on conscious consumption and takes part in charity fairs.

Photographer Oksana Borovets spent 8 months in Poland after 24 February

A friend told me about the scholarship to restart artistic activities. She found out that the programme was expanding its activities to Ukrainians returning home. She advised me to apply for it. That's when I returned to Ukraine from Poland, on September 1, with my 2-year-old daughter. Cooperation with 'Restored' allowed me to continue the art project 'Keys' about losing my home, which I started in April 2022. I resumed my studies and artistic activity - portrait photography. During this time I continued documenting the stories of the project. I have begun creating a visual concept for the exhibition which I plan to open," says Oksana Borovets.

In Ukraine the artist has written poems for the 11 letters of the book "Mythical Alphabet" and conducted her first creative photography.

Multidisciplinary artist Oleksandra Krolikowska has moved between four countries

A month after my full-scale invasion I went to an art residency in Budapest. From there to another residency in Latvia. I was also in Germany, doing a performance in Berlin. Then I visited an art residency in Ireland. It is clear that, at the same time as the incredible and absurd cruelty and evil we are experiencing in Ukraine, the modern world also shows another side - empathy and willingness to help. I have experienced a lot of warmth and genuine compassion along the way. It has prompted me to look at the experience of war in a new way," shared Alexandra.

According to her, the decision to return home was made instinctively and at the same time deeply conscious.

I had a plan to start a master's degree in psychology in Cork, but changed my mind. This was the third time I had faced Russian aggression. I lived in Crimea in Sevastopol until 2014, but was born in Donetsk. Consequently, I lost my home already then. Therefore, being in the Irish mountains, I realized that at that time I wanted to live in Ukraine. To be useful exactly here. So I came back to Kiev and entered magistracy. My main impression was the feeling that the people I see in the underground, in the shop or in the park know who they are, what's going on and why there is this war. It is a kind of deep certainty about the meaning of being. It is exactly what I lacked in Europe. I feel even calmer in Kiev than I do abroad. Perhaps because I know that I am where I am supposed to be," says the artist.

In Ukraine, Alexandra started a project called "Photos from the Front. A Diary of Collective Memories, where servicemen of the Armed Forces captured on film their experiences, everyday life and feelings. Participants include Ryan Christopher Collins, Alexey Valuysky-Sharygin, Olga Nemtseva, Anastasia Blyshchyk, and Alaska. The author is also launching a campaign on the Community platform to print a photo book.

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Evgenia Ruban

Eugenia Ruban writes about political and economic news. She looks at large-scale phenomena in Ukrainian politics and economics from the perspective of how they will affect ordinary Ukrainians.