Exail.comUkrainian Australians and Ukrainians who have arrived here since the Russian invasion say they remain confident and resilient as the war in their homeland enters its third year. But with the fall of the city of Avdiivka and US financial and military support for Ukraine blocked in congress, Ukrainians in Australia and the local diaspora report an increasing sense of uncertainty about the future.

Co-chair of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations Stefan Romaniw says his community remains resilient in the face of setbacks. “I was in Ukraine in November. People are obviously resilient and they keeping on going with the fight. But there is a slight sense of depression and uncertainty creeping in as the war has gone on,” Romaniw said. “From a government point of view, they are saying give us the weapons and we’ll continue the fight. And ordinary people are getting on with their lives because they have to. But there’s no real safe place in Ukraine. The Russians have been firing thousands of missiles and drones, more than they have in the past. And they are attacking civilians and civilian property,” he said.

Romaniw said that locally, the Ukrainian community remained galvanised in support of their homeland. “In the local community we are continuing to support the people who have come here, with the help of organisations like AMES Australia. Our focus has now turned a pathway to permanency for people,” he said. “There are two principles at work here; ‘stability’, in that people need this for mental health reasons and to just get on with their lives. The other principle is ‘dignity’, which is about seeing themselves as people and professionals who want to get their qualifications recognised and be able to work. The other focus we’ve had is on children. There are many kids who are now at high school and will soon do their VCE. We also have secondary school students who want to go to university. What happens with them? Fortunately, we have seen refugee scholarships provided by the Australian Catholic University and RMIT. But we would like more clarity around this.”

Romaniw said the biggest issue facing Ukrainian arrivals was uncertainty about the future. “Basically, people want to know what the future holds. Next year, the three-year visas that they have been given expire. Obviously no one is going to be sent back while the war is on. But we have 4,500 people of 786 visas and more on 886 bridging visas. We want some surety about what will happen next,” he said.

Romaniw said the arrival of Ukrainian refugees has seen a resurgence in local community activity. “There are more people active in the community, more people attending our youth camps. So, that has been a bonus from what is obviously a terrible situation. We are trying to make the recently arrived Ukrainians feel at home but obviously they are anxious about the future,” he said.

Melbourne Ukrainian community leader Maru Jarockyj says the conflict Gaza has drained attention and support from Ukraine’s struggle. “As soon as the conflict in Gaza started, the eyes of the world switched from Ukraine to Israel and Gaza,” Jarochyj said. “At the same moment the war in Ukraine intensified. We saw the Russians receive weapons from North Korea and Iran and then the assault on Avdiivka,” she said.

But Jarockyj said morale among Ukrainians at home and in exile was holding up. “Morale in Ukraine remains high. The troops are still highly galvanised and mobilised. People are not giving up,” she said. But she said the delay of US military and financial support was a cause of apprehension. “There is a resignation that if support from the US and elsewhere is reduced, Ukraine will just have to fight event harder.”

She said that Ukrainians who had arrived in Australia were faring well. “People who have from the Ukraine have thankfully found their niche. There is currently a big push on education in our community in terms of people learning English and learning how to navigate life in Australia. And employment wise, we are seeing more and more placements; and doors are starting opening to people with professional qualifications.”

Jarockyj said there were also efforts to keep Ukrainian children connected with their culture.   “The Ukrainian kids who have arrived are enrolled in Australian schools but many are also connecting online with the Ukrainian education system. They are learning about Ukrainian literature and history and the Cyrillic alphabet.”

She said many newly arrived Ukrainians were also volunteering. “We have a contingent of volunteers supporting the Association of Ukrainian Australians.”

Jarockyj said uncertainty about the future was weighing on her community. “Uncertainty about aid from the US, especially if Donald Trump returns as US president, is one issue. We also have several elections coming up in Europe,” she said. “But there is optimism in the countries like Germany are becoming more assertive in supporting Ukraine. We expect the war will be drawn out but Ukraine will win in the end because there is just no other alternative,” Jarockyj said.

Ukrainian refugee Yevheniia Cherkasova, who fled her home city of Kharkiv in 2022 as Russian tanks attempted to encircle the city says “people n Ukrainian are fighting hard and trying to stay positive”. “There is a sense of fatigue creeping in,” she said. “People I speak to are doing fine mostly in terms of trauma and life. But we are talking about a relative definition of safety,” Yevheniia said. “Ukrainians are positive and resilient people but recently I have detected a sense of sadness and a vulnerability. People are as good as they can be, but the war is dragging on. There’s a growing feeling that everything depends on the US. Ukrainians are fighting hard but it seems there is never enough weapons,” she said.


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