What’s next for Ukrainian refugees?: Lived experiences between state „welcome infrastructures“ and self-help ecosystems

The Research Center for the History of Transformations (RECET) at the University of Vienna and the Research Platform "Transformations and Eastern Europe" invite to their regular Transformative Salon, Thursday, 9 November 2023, with Tanja Maier, Ruslana Koziienko and Jenia Yudytska.

Venue: Café Merkur, Florianigasse 18, 1080 Wien

With Hamas massacres in southern Israel and Israel’s subsequent war in Gaza taking the recent headlines by storm and with the public interest for the Russian war in Ukraine steadily receding already in the past months, the question of Ukrainian refugees‘ future in the European Union is slowly moving into a chronic phase. Volunteers on the ground report that Austria has unofficially closed its doors to Ukrainian refugees and is quietly turning people away by telling them to move to Germany or Switzerland. It is now all the more important to speak about the (lacking?) efforts mounted by the Austrian state to provide a safe and economically motivating environment for Ukrainians who fled to Austria during the Russian invasion. What social, economic, health-related and other experiences do Ukrainian refugees make in Austria on a daily basis, and how will those influence the future of both countries and the relations between them? How and when will the legal status of „temporary protection“ for Ukrainian refugees end, and what would be the most mutually beneficial continuation of it? What is the role of civil society, and to what extent is it able to supplement state efforts in an entwined war situation with no clear future prospect of resolution?

Following an academic introduction by Ruslana Koziienko, two prominent local volunteer activists speak about the reality of being a refugee group in Austria that enjoys different rights from and very different prospects compared to all other (previous) refugee groups.

Ruslana Koziienko is a social anthropologist and a Ph.D. candidate at Central European University (Vienna). Her research interests include gender, masculinities, and displacement. She was an IWM visiting fellow with the Institute’s program for Scholars from Ukraine in the summer of 2022. Ruslana is part of the research group working on the project Arrival Infrastructures: Processes of Emplacement of Displaced People from Ukraine in Vienna, which was launched by IWM within its Europe-Asia Research Platform on Forced Migration and directed by Prof. Ayşe Çağlar. The project explores the response of the city of Vienna to the mass influx of displaced people from Ukraine.

Tanja Maier is a volunteer helping Ukrainians who came to Austria after the Russian invasion under the EU temporary protection program. She is a co-founder of Cards for Ukraine which distributes €50 supermarket gift cards to families in need across the country. Tanja also runs a Telegram information group for Ukrainians in Austria. She writes a Substack "Weight of the World" and is widely read on social media as a source of first-hand, real time information regarding the many challenges Ukrainians face in building new lives here in Austria. She is American, speaks Russian fluently, and lives with her husband and three teenagers in Vienna.

Jenia Yudytska, originally from Kharkiv, emigrated from Ukraine as a child. She is currently doing a PhD in computational sociolinguistics. Since spring 2022, she has been a volunteer moderator for one of the online (Telegram-based) communities for Ukrainian refugees who fled to Austria. Throughout Europe, such Telegram communities have emerged as important self-organised, mutual aid "info-points" for new arrivals to orientate themselves in their new countries; in Austria, the moderators of the largest groups are in close contact with the refugee coordinator's office and attempt to pass issues up and information down. The moderators, and the community members themselves, end up answering questions ranging from bureaucratic technicalities about governmental benefits to which brand of Austrian cottage cheese tastes most like Ukrainian cottage cheese.

The salon is moderated by Cathrin Kahlweit, correspondent of the Süddeutsche Zeitung in Vienna.

The lecture will be followed by a public discussion.

FREE ENTRY. No registration is needed to participate live. Event language will be English.

The organisers plan to record the event and to publish it on the RECET YouTube channel 2-3 days later.