A Ukrainian mother’s hope for her children’s future in Lithuania

Vilnius. Almost two years have passed since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which has forced millions of people to leave their homes and jobs seeking refuge and safety. Almost 84,000 refugees from Ukraine chose Lithuania, including Alena and her four children. 

“We arrived in Lithuania in March 2022 from Ovruch, in the Zhytomyr region. We had already considered moving abroad, but this terrible and devastating war precipitated our decision. I couldn't bear witnessing our children’s country being destroyed,” says Alena.  

The family chose Lithuania because Alena’s husband had worked there before the war. “Our journey to Vilnius was relatively smooth, first by train to Poland and then by car to Lithuania. It turned out to be the right decision,” says Alena. “Our children feel comfortable here, and the youngest one speaks Lithuanian quite well,” she adds. Alena goes on to say that all her children are attending school, studying, and adapting well to their new life in Lithuania, making friends and participating in various clubs. 

Alena holds a diploma in ecology. In Lithuania, she became a manicurist after spending some time raising her children and following Lithuanian language classes. “In Lithuania, I have grown professionally, and now I am learning the language to enhance communication with my clients and to integrate into this country,” she says. 

Acknowledging similarities between Lithuania and Ukraine in terms of climate and culture, Alena admits that starting anew was somehow challenging. She is nevertheless grateful to have chosen Lithuania, as the two nations share more commonalities than differences. “The most important thing for me is the safety and tranquility of my children, making sure that they can learn and achieve their goals. So far, it seems that they are thriving in Lithuania,” Alena adds. 

To support Alena and her family, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Office in Lithuania covered a part of their rent for two months and provided them with EUR 150 in vouchers to help them settle in and buy household items.  

“This assistance was extremely necessary, and we are grateful to have received it. When you strive to settle in a foreign country, any kind of support, both in cash or in kind, is very useful,” says Alena. 

In 2023, IOM Lithuania, with support from the German Federal Foreign Office, provided almost EUR 132,000 in rent reimbursements to 208 Ukrainian families in Lithuania. It also distributed 160 vouchers for household items worth EUR 150 each to help refugees from Ukraine settle in.  

“The rental assistance and the vouchers were intended to help refugees from Ukraine to settle and live more independently in Lithuania. Refugees were able to pay rental deposit and procure much-needed everyday household items,” says Eglė Staškūnaitė, Head of the Migrant Assistance and Crisis Management Unit at IOM Lithuania. “We heard many stories from refugees about having to flee their homes in Ukraine with just a few belongings, so it is natural that when they arrive in a new place, they need a lot of things to meet basic needs. IOM Lithuania decided to help,” Staškūnaitė concludes.