War in Ukraine.
Maryana was a great podcast guest, sharing her story of having to leave Ukraine due to the war.
- Mariana Vyniarska
- 22 mins
Tom: Hello and welcome to episode 27 of the make things better podcast. Today I'm joined by Maryana Vyniarska. Pleasure to have you on Mariana, do you want to start by telling us a bit about yourself and what you're doing at the moment?
Mariana: Hello, thanks for inviting me. My name is Mariana, I am from Ukraine. I am a lawyer in Ukraine, I am a founder of a public interest legal organisation called Legal Analytics. I have a PhD on environmental economics. My PhD research is connected with legal economic and environmental issues of climate change problem and climate change policy in Ukraine and on a global level.
In Ukraine, I am also a private interpreter. When the war started I was employed by Greenpeace and I did quite a lot of analytical materials about environmental crimes that take place in Ukraine right now, and provided information to relevant organisations. I do also, like currently I am also doing training with a barrister in Ukraine because things are- People are trying to live here and they are trying to continue what they did before although it is a bit difficult because there is no proper light, proper heating, people are struggling, but people are getting used to it and finding ways how to live this quite difficult winter that people have this year.
Tom: Yeah, you were just telling me how people are living without any, like, electricity for, you know, over 10 hours a day.
Mariana: Yeah, yeah. So some places, they have electricity cards or 3 hours - it's okay - but sometimes it's one day. But we are talking- Not one day maybe, 10 hours, 12 hours, but we are talking about Western Ukraine where I'm from, and our situation is better comparing to Eastern Ukraine and to Southern Ukraine.
Because people there are without electricity for months now, so what they do, they have wood maybe. So if we speak about, like, civilised world civilised countries where people used to have internet, used to have everything, and now they do not have electricity so they're really struggling.
But it is better on Western Ukraine, and I am from Lviv on Western Ukraine, so I still have my home, my safe place to live. But, with like electricity cards, heating cards, problem with water supply. But it's not, it doesn't last for long. In place where I live it didn't last for longer than like, 9/10 hours. So, it's not bad here.
Tom: So are you still quite in contact with the people back home then?
Mariana: Yeah, I am in contact with them because I have my husband here, my parents are here, as you know they are not allowed to travel because of military obligation that they all have. And I also have 3 year old son, so obviously we want to stay to spend time together too, and especially, when the war started we thought that we can leave for 1 month or 2 months and we will go back so that this nightmare will finish.
But now you'll see that it doesn't finish, and like, it's 10 months now that we've been living like this, travelling, trying to see each other, trying to spend times together. Like, you know, their birthday parties. Still we want to be together like at national holidays - we are thinking about Christmas, that you would like obviously to be together and not to be somewhere far from your family, so like. Like, ordinary things, yeah. But this is what we think about, yeah.
Tom: Yeah. It must be so hard, and, not knowing when you're going to go back and the back and forth of it all as well.
Marian: Yeah it's very difficult that you cannot plan. Like even a daily routine, so some kids they go to school then the alarm starts and like the WhatsApp group from school say, there is no light and no heating so please no school today. Or what's the point to go school and just sit in the shelter. Well it's in the morning, but when it's during daytime, so they, when the air alarm is on, so kids, they just go to the shelter. Luckily they are there half an hour, it's okay, but if it's more than hour, which means that you have, um, missile heating, so they are staying in the shelter for longer.
Yeah, but, like people have no choice. And as they think- not all people they can be moved, relocated. Not all people can be displaced, and like you know, Ukrainian - it's not like million country, there are 40 million people. So, like they cannot be moved because there is no space and place for them in Europe, in the UK, so they are struggling in those countries too. So some people are staying here.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah. It must be really really tough, obviously, for everyone there. And then also talking of people who have moved abroad as well, because you're going to have people left at home and you've got to try and create a bit of a life here, but then you don't know when you're going to go back, and, you want to tell us a little bit about how it has been moving over to England?
Mariana: Well. First, like, challenge and problem is language barrier. And I know what it is like because I speak English, but when I am in Germany, or like Switzerland, or in France, when they don't speak English it's just terrible - you don't understand people anywhere, so like, first thing is language, and not all people, like, speak language. Like younger people, they do a bit better, but if you say when we speak about people like plus 50s, so they it's very difficult for them to be relocated and to be told you are living here now and you've got to do something with it, because, like, no job. Of course difficult to find job.
To live on benefits - you can live like this one month, second month, third month, fourth month, sixth month - but what's next? So it's like... and of course all of them they want to see their families, so it is very difficult from financial side.
Other difficulty is to find place to live, like, you know London is difficult for English people to find place to live and to afford rent and all the bills - not just saying about Ukrainians and refugees. Like, you can not even find place when you don't have a job, and...yeah.
Other difficulty, and the last one I would like to mention is childcare, because I am a mum of 3 year old kid, like, not meaning to tell English people as they already know but like, the childcare is like 2 hours 45 minutes and you don't work, so you cannot really do anything. Even to try to find work it's not enough, because if you need to travel to interview, you cannot travel further from the nursery because all those practical issues - but they are important, and you don't have - you don't have grannies who can help you, you don't want to leave your child anywhere because those children they struggle.
When the war started and we want to keep them safe, you want to protect them, you want to, like- I don't want my kid, to leave him in one nursery with one person, then with the other person, because he has moved from his place, like his normal, like his normal life is taken away from him. His toys, his room, his dad. So, I don't want him to live anywhere in London, in England or any other countries with people I don't know because I am looking for a job, for example, because I am taking care of his mental health too. So, it is very difficult with childcare - not all nurseries have places, and again you have to combine everything together. Your place of live, your place of work, a nursery, and you're a single mum. Like, at home you have dad, you have support all the time, and you don't have that support too. But obviously all countries, all European countries, Great Britain, Canada, USA, they are doing of course a lot to people, to help them, to support them. It's obvious. But, you know, like, we need this war to be stopped, we don't want to be supported and to live on benefits, we want to work and to do- to have our normal life that we used to have. So.
Tom: Yeah. It must be really hard because, as you say like, it's so great that there are countries supporting people from Ukraine but at the same time, you don't want to have to rely on another country to help. You want your own independence and to create your own lives and have options to build your own career and whatever else.
Tom: And I think that was something that stood out when we spoke at the networking event that we met at a few weeks back, I think you were saying that a lot of Ukrainians do want to find jobs but they don't fully understand - or they've not really been told - how to go about doing that.
Mariana: Because like, mentality is completely different. And if there are people who always wanted to travel and to try to live somewhere abroad, so it's easier for them because they know that for the beginning they have to adapt somehow. But for people who didn't plan, and who like to move, and who had their own lives, own businesses, proper work here in Ukraine - it's very difficult for them because they have to start from the very beginning, from the lower level. Because if you are in Ukraine and you have certain level of life, you cannot be on the same level when you are, like forced to move.
So that's why they need to start from the very beginning, from the lower stage. And it's okay for, like 20 year old, 26, 27, but it's very difficult for people who are over 30, over 40, because, like, to start from the very beginning it's very difficult. You need to change your way of thinking. But old people, they still hope that we will- When war end, that we will come back home and that we won't have to stay abroad for a long time. Yeah.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah. And, as you were saying earlier, like people who are a bit older they're probably struggling with like the language barrier. But maybe in Ukraine they had like worked a lot to get to quite a good, sort of, job, or they had like their own business and stuff, so. I suppose it must be quite hard to adapt to life here, and I think it's brilliant how so many people here have done a lot to support Ukrainians, but yeah, as you say, I suppose like most issues here in the UK, in at least my personal opinion, it kind of falls down to the government, really. And there are issues that people across the whole of Britain are facing.
Mariana: It's about the pressure on the government, and people you vote for, because they don't have those problems, you know? Problems of ordinary people, and this is the problem. It is a big problem. Just people- They cannot work, like single mum, she just cannot work. Even when children go to school from 4, the school is from 9 til 4. Come on. So, still you have time to travel and you just cannot afford to rent the flat, so this is like, my personal situation, like. If I am single mum, I am the one who works and no childcare, so I just cannot work. And I want to- I want to work. And like, Ukrainians, they are like this. They don't want to live on benefits, they want to work and they want to rely on themselves. They don't want support, they want to work and to have opportunity to work.
Tom: Yeah. It must be really frustrating. Do you sort of feel like your whole independence has, sort of been taken away from you?
Mariana: Definitely, definitely. You cannot like- And I was trying to find accommodation for example, but I was calling to different agencies, and when I say I am ref- I'm not refugee, but I am from Ukraine, I am single mum with a kid, I just started work. Oh sorry, we understand you but 6 months payslip proof is needed, and all the landlords are like this, so it's like. Yeah.
Tom: Yeah. And on that point, actually, do you have any like - it might be really hard to answer this, but have you got any plans in the sort of near future for your self?
Mariana: Well, my plan - while I still have a place to live in Ukraine, I will be travelling to Ukraine. If the situation worsens then I will think what to do next and to go somewhere abroad for some time, to give like energy system, to reconnect people, and all this stuff. To live like, just me and just with my kid alone and to be able to support yourself in Great Britain, is just impossible. You need to take your husband and to move him too, but he is not allowed to travel now. You need to have at least grandmother, because you- It's just you, and most mothers who moved to Britain, they are with children, so lots of people- Some people are going back even from Eastern Ukraine, and it's very bad there but they have their place to live. Like, you cannot live in the place with other people for long in one room. So it just makes you crazy sometimes. So, um, I have um, remote job which is connected with the support of Ukrainians in the UK, so we are trying to organise training for the Ukrainians who moved to the United Kingdom. To to make their English a bit better, to teach them how to write CV, how to prepare for interviews, how to go about selling yourself, how to develop your soft skills. So to be able to adapt, uh, to the life in the United Kingdom. For those, for example, who have no place where to go back. There are lots of such places. So now, for the next half a year, I have this occupation, I have this job, I have this opportunity, and I will continue with it.
We are planning to set up maybe online platform for children who are in Ukraine so they also need support here, so they might have opportunity to use this platform to be trained and maybe in the future to move because we don't know what will happen in a few months time, and even in few years. So maybe this situation will continue for a few years, so we don't know. So, these are plans to support Ukrainians in the UK and to provide a light platform for training for young Ukrainains who are now in Ukraine but who might think about moving in the future to the United Kingdom or to some other European country. But it's good to be prepared for moving, and not to move, to stay there, to be there and to start to do all from the very beginning. So maybe- So these are my plans for the next few months.
Tom: Yeah. Well, it sounds like you've got some great plans at least, and I love how you are still trying to do, like, so much to make a difference to our world, you know. You seem so passionate about it as well, it's amazing.
Mariana: Keeps us going, not to think and to stay in the depression, so what's going on. But when you do something, when you are busy, and you are strong, yeah. But when you think how unfair is this world and when you are in those thoughts it just takes your energy, so, that's why- We need to keep going, this is like our victory too. Yeah.
Tom: Yeah, yeah, definitely. Well it must be quite- quite a lonely sort of struggle really, and then, what you want to do is focus maybe on things that you can control rather than the things that you can't control, because you've got so much taken away from you, you're forced into a situation completely unimaginable. Yeah, I guess- As you say you need something to keep you going that you can focus on, that's in your hands, you have some power and control over. Like yourself, to actually make a difference.
Tom: Absolutely love what you doing. I'll finish the podcast with a final question then, as always, what do you think people can do to make things better? And you can interpret this however you like.
Mariana: To make pressure on the governments to, to provide international and global support, uh, in such kind of conflicts, because, it is just unbelievable that this is happening in the 21st century that just some person can send missiles and rockets on peaceful people, on energetic objects. So, I'm thinking about pressure on the governments. I understand that nobody wants this conflict to be global. I don't want this conflict to be global either, but it is global. You know. Because, because of energy bills that are going up. This is also the politics of the country who has started the war. So everybody must realise that this is not the problem of the single country, because if we lose- So this will be the issue for next generation, for European generation.
This war is not about, like Ukraine and Russia, this war is about, like, evil and civilised and world. So, and, uh, and everyone is watching who is going to win. And sometimes it just makes me- I just don't understand how it is happening, because- I just don't understand how it is possible. So, I'm thinking about the pressure on the government and on the change of maybe mentality of people so that there are no- If unfair war is happening, so, it just something that cannot happen.
So we must make our governments accountable for what is happening, because, you know, like civilised world, they also made Russia so powerful because of dependence on fossil fuels. So we must understand that this is the responsibility of- Global responsibility of what is happening. But, the one country is suffering here. Only Ukrainians.
Mariana: But make them rich. You know, like civilised world, European Union, because of dependence on the gas, we made them rich. So this is what makes them so rich so they can like, send missiles and spend millions of dollars just within one day just to make people without- To make darkness. Yeah. This is what they do, they just waste money on such terrible things.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah, it's a very sad state of affairs and you know, it's just, just horrible that it's happening at all. Yeah. I can't even imagine how it must be for you and your family, to be honest, and millions of other people right now across the whole of Ukraine. As you say it impacts everyone to some extent. Obviously it just impacts people from Ukraine the most by millions really, but yeah. Alright. Yeah, thanks so much for coming on the podcast, it's been a pleasure chatting to you Mariana, and I hope everyone has a great rest of their day.
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