More than 60 Ukrainians have found jobs in Biscay in recent months

Anna Smolova (right) with another partner from UkraineSOS / Yvonne Iturgaiz

Three refugees recount their experience from leaving the country at war until their arrival in the territory, where the UkraineSOS association guided them to find accommodation and work

Alba Pelaez

A day before war broke out in Ukraine, Denis Korolev, 35, was preparing to become a father. In the hospital, together with his wife and newborn son, they began to hear the first bombs. “We were very panicked and didn’t know what to do,” says Denis, who has changed his residence from Irpin – a town devastated by the detonations – for Bilbao. He is one of the many refugees who left the country due to circumstances and settled in Biscay, where thanks to an employment program of the UkraineSOS association, he found a job. In recent months, this initiative has enabled 65 citizens welcomed by the entity to have a contract.

Denis Korolev. 35 year old waiter

Denis has been in the territory for six months. He chose the capital of Biscay as his destination because his sister-in-law has been living there for more than five years. And he begins to defend himself quite well with Spanish, although he admits that “I speak English better than Spanish”. The Anglo-Saxon language is well known to him because it served him well in his previous jobs as a waiter. A union, that of the hotel industry, for which he has committed himself again today, with his current position at ‘Dando la brasa’, a Latin-Asian fusion restaurant with premises in Bilbao and Getxo. “I found a job very quickly and in a field in which I wanted to work”, he admits with satisfaction.

Denis Korolev /

Yvonne Iturgaiz

Anna Smolova. 32 year old doctor

Anna Smolova’s case is a little more complex. At 32, she graduated in medicine. In his country of origin, in fact, his job was that. But when he came to Spain, problems began to arise with the validation of documents. “I came with my mother and my son when the war broke out. The only thing I had when I arrived was the desire to help people, so I contacted UkraineSOS,” says Anna. “All the advice they give was very important,” he adds. “Even though I’m a doctor, I couldn’t practice because I needed a role that I got thanks to the association, but it wasn’t easy at all,” he continues. “Although I can finally graduate from university and hope to practice as a doctor soon,” he said. So far, she continues as an assistant in a pharmacy, where she has been working since July 21.

Inna Lavrinenko. 47 year old housekeeper

His compatriot Inna Lavrinenko ended up in Bilbao in a different way, but for the same circumstances. She had to flee to Poland and from there she went to Spain. “I came alone. My family is still in Ukraine, although one of my oldest children is working in another country,” he says. A family from the territory took her in for six months, until that she manages to rent her own apartment with the help of UkraineSOS. For them, he has only words of gratitude: “They are a wonderful family, who treated me very well and with whom I stay in touch on a daily basis. Plus they had pets at home, which was like an antidepressant”. Today, he has managed to become independent and “from the first day I arrived, I I thought I wanted to be useful and start working”. Since last June 17, he has obtained several jobs and is currently at the restaurant ‘El Globo’.

MP Teresa Laespada with one of the spokespersons of UkraineSOS/

Yvonne Iturgaiz

This employment program launched by UkraineSOS has received the support of the Provincial Council of Vizcaya. “The first thing we did was to meet the associations that work with refugees to see a little how, in what way we could ruin, so as not to act independently and without any coordination”, explained this morning Teresa Laespada. Of the 65 contracts that managed to close, 20 were open-ended.


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