Providing war-affected Ukrainians with accommodation and integration support during the months necessary for them to find employment and housing and to become independent. This has been the goal of the IOM’s (International Organization for Migration) Housing Assistance Programme, launched in Kosice in September 2022.

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IOM social worker helps a beneficiary with filling out the paperwork. Photo © International Organization for Migration (IOM) 2023.

“Standing on your own feet in a new country without any support, a job or knowing the local language is extremely difficult,” says Martina Varholik, head of the IOM sub-office in Kosice. “Accommodation is a basic need that has to be met in order for people to begin to think about their next steps. If these are fulfilled, people can then start focusing on other priorities, such as language, work and education,” she further explains.

Since October 2022, almost 120 Ukrainians have benefitted from the accommodation programme in Kosice.

“Women with children are given priority, as they are among the most vulnerable,” explains IOM Eastern region housing coordinator, Lucia Šlosárová. “In the seven months of the programme, 51 people have succeeded in finding their own accommodation, which confirms the need for this programme,” Šlosárová adds.

Tetyana is trying to provide the best conditions for her family

Tetyana and her daughters – 16-year-old Maria and 6-year-old Daryna – and her mother-in-law are currently looking for a suitable apartment for the whole family. They come from Dnipro, Ukraine, and have been accommodated through this project in Kosice for five months. Tetyana works in a gardening company near Kosice, where she takes care of plants. It is not her dream job, but she is happy to support her family and work toward renting an apartment, while her husband helps them remotely, as he had to stay in Ukraine because of the war. She and her husband have met about four times in the last year, and the memory of their divided family brings tears to Tetyana’s eyes.

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Tetyana misses her husband, who had to stay in Ukraine due to the mobilisation. At the same time, she is proud that he is supporting the Ukrainian army with logistics. However, she is the one who must take care of the family. © International Organization for Migration (IOM) 2023.

“My eldest daughter is growing up and needs her privacy; the younger one will start attending school in September and will also need space to learn. On the other hand, my mother-in-law is elderly and needs a calm place. We have seen several apartments. Finding a suitable and affordable one is a challenge,” says Tatiana. Her older daughter Maria attends secondary school and her grandmother babysits her younger daughter Daryna during the day, allowing Tetyana to go to work.

After their evacuation from Dnipro, Tetyana and her family initially lived in the United States (US) for several months. After failing to arrange legal residency in the US, they moved to Slovakia, to a village near Kosice for about 8 months, where they were hosted by a local church. During that time, they learnt about the IOM’s Housing Assistance Programme. They moved to Kosice, and Tetyana was finally able to find a job after two and a half months in the programme.

Over the course of a year, their life has been turned upside down several times, but Tetyana believes that it will soon feel normal again. Tetyana wants to make her old dream come true; she is finishing a course in graphic design, which she would like to focus on in the future, and she is also taking Slovak language courses organised by the IOM. She is determined to find a better job.

Job counselling is one of the services provided to people in the IOM housing assistance programme.

“We help people with writing CVs, the job search and communicating with potential employers,” says IOM social worker, Veronika Čavisová, adding that assistance to find employment is the most common request. The programme provides the necessary assistance to enable independence. Other services include individual legal, social and mental health counselling.

A feeling of home in the communal kitchen

People in dormitory-type accommodations can cook in a shared kitchen and spend time in a common room, where children of different ages usually play. The kitchen is also a space to share the small joys of everyday life that clients experience. Just a few days ago, 13-year-old Artyom returned from a hockey tournament in Slovenia, where he was successful. His mother, Olena, proudly shows the gold medal to the IOM staff and everyone who passes by.

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Artyom in the kitchen with his mother Olena, IOM social workers and his gold medal from the hockey tournament in Slovenia. Photo © International Organization for Migration (IOM) 2023.

Artyom is a member of the hockey club HK Sršne Košice; he is also on the Slovak national team. “He has been playing hockey since he was five years old; he trains seven times a week,” explains Olena with pride in her eyes. Shy teenager Artyom only confirms his enthusiasm for hockey and life in Slovakia.

“This accommodation has been our safe zone. We feel protected here, and we always have someone to turn to for help. It’s a great start, but after a few months, it’s time to move on and try to live a normal life,” concludes Tetyana, who is about to see other apartments for rent soon.

IOM Slovakia plans to expand the Housing Assistance Programme across Slovakia.

IOM Housing Assistance Programme in Kosice

The IOM Housing Assistance Programme is designed for people from Ukraine with the aim of helping them integrate into Slovakia. The programme is supported by a portfolio of IOM’s Migration Information Centre (MIC) services, such as legal and job counselling, Slovak language courses, psychological support and social counselling.

The IOM Housing Assistance Programme in Košice has provided mid-term accommodation to 119 people from Ukraine. From these, 51 have found their own rented accommodation, 28 children attend schools and nurseries and 16 people have received psychosocial support.

IOM Housing Assistance Programme Services

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Infographic © International Organization for Migration (IOM) 2023.

Click here to enlarge the infopgraphics.


Written by & photos: Dušana Štecová, IOM Slovakia


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