The journey of the Marchenko family began in 2022, when they were forced to leave their hometown of Pokrovsk in Donetsk region of Ukraine. With just a few bags and two young daughters in their arms, the Ukrainian family faced uncertainty: where to live and how to make a living? While questions are being answered as they go, the main thing for the family is that they are moving forward together in search of a new home.

I tried to find a job, but it turned out I needed registration. I started looking into housing options. A real estate agency mentioned that there is the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Belarus, which helps Ukrainian refugees with rentals. And more.

The first to "test the waters" in Belarus was young grandmother Victoria. She settled in an apartment in one of the areas of Minsk. Soon after, her son Sergey moved to Belarus as well together with his wife and two kids. It seemed like the essentials are settled, but there was a catch: when you arrive with nothing, $300 per month for rent is a substantial amount. So, they needed to find more favourable conditions. For example, find an employer, which provides housing. After the search in Minsk was unsuccessful, Sergey started looking for a job in smaller Belarusian cities. Soon, the job was found in the village of Cherkassy.

Sergey, a former miner, now works as a welder, while his mother Victoria found a job as a cook's assistant. Life is gradually improving: the children will soon go to kindergarten, and the Marchenko family is settling into their new life. They are grateful for the support and excited about the new opportunities they have found in Belarus.

Now that Marchenko family live in a rural area and work there, they don’t have to worry  about the costs of renting an apartment, they only pay for utilities.

"The International Organization for Migration helped us a lot, – tell the Marchenko family. – They paid for two months of rent in Minsk, translated our documents, bought us a microwave, winter clothes, pillows, blankets… And they also gave everyone a supermarket voucher for 100 rubbles. Imagine, it's 500 rubbles in total!  When you arrive with nothing, it's a huge help. We have already tried the Belarusian milk products, and especially liked your sour cream."

Their new apartment is a chronicle of how they coped with obstacles. Each item has its own story, reflecting the efforts and desire for a new life. Some of the furniture was found on a local marketplace, other things were given by colleagues, while there are also items already purchased with the salary earned at a new job. 

The Marchenko family are ready for new challenges and opportunities. They strive for financial independence and are ready to make efforts to achieve their goal. In a conversation, the Marchenko family often repeat: "We want to earn money ourselves, we just need a chance." There are different ways to achieve this. For example, IOM helped Sergey get into driving courses. When he gets the "C" category (he already has "A" and "B"), the job options will expand. And his mother Victoria expects that when she has a residence permit, she will be able to open her own small business again. 

Finally, Victoria shares her thoughts: 

There has been a reassessment of values, now we appreciate every moment, we rejoice in ordinary things – electricity, water, clear windows. At home, we had to be hammered with chipboard to protect ourselves from bombings. We lived in the darkness. We can say that everything is fine now.

The article is a result of collaboration between Smartpress and IOM Belarus. 

SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities