Vietnamese refugees from Ukraine try to settle down

By Viet Anh   March 18, 2022 | 08:00 pm PT
Vietnamese refugees from Ukraine try to settle down
A Vietnamese-Ukrainian family reunites at the Berlin Central Station after fleeing war in Ukraine. Photo by Nicholas Muller/SOPA Images/Sipa USA
Many Vietnamese who fled Ukraine are trying to settle down in neighboring countries in Europe instead of going to Vietnam, for reasons including hope that the conflict will end soon.

"I want to stay in Poland because it will only take a short time to return to Ukraine when the conflict is over," 46-year-old Nguyen Thi Hoa told VnExpress International.

Hoa said she was among many Vietnamese brethren wishing to apply for asylum in Poland for the reason.

On Feb 28, Hoa and two of her children, a 20-year-old woman and a 13-year-old boy, fled Odessa four days after Russia launched its attack against Ukraine.

Fearing a long wait and her family facing danger at the border, Hoa chose to go by train and bus through four countries (Moldova, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia) to Poland. The journey took five days.

In Poland capital Warsaw, Hoa and her kids are living temporarily in her friend's house.

There are more reasons for Hoa to choosing to stay in Poland, instead of applying to return to Vietnam on rescue flights. She wants her son to continue pursuing studies under a similar language system. She is hopeful that the Vietnamese community in Poland will help her overcome short term difficulties, since the community has been actively supporting people uprooted from Ukraine.

"The Vietnamese community in Poland is not only large, but also united, friendly and caring," she said.

Hoa has submitted documents to ask for legal status in Poland to find a job.

She plans to open a business with her friend, using her experience in the clothing business in Ukraine, or learn to do nails.

At the same time, she is arranging to send her daughter, a student who also ran a beauty salon in Odessa, to Switzerland to find a suitable job.

Hoa, who lived in Ukraine for 20 years, said she was among many people who do not want to give up their houses and other properties in Ukraine that they had worked for years to create. Most are looking forward to an early end to the conflict so that they can return to their homes, she said.

"I long for the day that I can return to my previous life, including teaching at a Vietnamese class for kids in our community."

Nguyen Thi Hoa, 1st on the right, with two of her kids, on the left, and a friend in Hungary on March 9, 2022. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Thi Hoa

Nguyen Thi Hoa (R) with a friend in Hungary and her two children, March 9, 2022. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Thi Hoa

As of March 16, around 4,600 Vietnamese nationals had left Ukraine and reached neighboring countries. Around 2,800 people have reached Poland, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Tran Anh Tuan, President of the Vietnamese Association in Poland, said Poland has been one of transit places for people who want to return to Vietnam since the conflict erupted three weeks ago, with around 1,400 people taken to Vietnam on special flights.

But there are also more than 100 people who want to stay in Poland.

He said people who lived legally in Ukraine before the conflict can apply for temporary protection in Poland, and as their applications are processed, they would be recognized as legal residents.

A large number of people have also used Poland as a transit to reach refugee camps in Germany, Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands and other countries.

Currently, the Vietnamese community in Poland is providing many kinds of support for the refugees, including connecting with Vietnamese volunteers in third countries to welcome them.

Besides the advantage of geographical proximity to Ukraine, many parents like Hoa have also chosen to stay in nearby nations for the sake of their children.

Vu Bich and her family have chosen Denmark to stay in after fleeing Ukraine.

She was told that the country was safe and its citizens kind. Her biggest concern was that her children get good schools to study in, she said.

At present, Bich, her husband and two kids are staying in a refugee camp in Odense, the Danish island of Funen.

Besides children's schooling, several Vietnamese who evacuated to Germany hoped for good chances to make a living.

Nguyen Yen Chi said she and her husband desired to stay in Europe to earn more money and ease her family's financial difficulties.

The couple went by train to Poland and were taken to a camp in Brandenburg, a town west of Berlin, on March 11. They are currently waiting to apply for a work permit.

Chi said she has been a worker in the textile industry in Ukraine since 2017. There were many people in the camp who shared her status and predicament, she added.

"We can only wait without knowing when we will get the result."

Dao Duc Dong said he has submitted documents for legal status in Saarbrücken, the capital of Saarland, a southwestern state in Germany, and is waiting for results from the local government.

Escaping Kharkiv in Ukraine, Dong, his wife and two children are living in his friend's house temporarily.

He said he wanted to stay on in Germany because he could earn a high income and benefit from good social services, not to mention proper schooling for his children.

"I will open a mini mart to make a living," he said.

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