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"Ukrainian children go to local Dutch schools literally from day one".


According to the UN, more than 5 million people have left Ukraine since February 24, 2022. In 90% of the cases we are talking about women and children fleeing to escape bombing and shelling. Every country of the European Union is doing everything possible to give these people shelter and food.

Border countries such as Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Moldova and Romania have borne the brunt of the humanitarian impact, but now there is hardly a country in Europe that is not assisting with the accommodation of Ukrainian refugees.

So far, more than 40,000 refugees from Ukraine have arrived in the Netherlands, and these are only approximate figures that do not include people living with their families or friends.

The country's official government website provides all the necessary information on resettlement and registration, and there is also a separate Ukrainian-language website for assistance to refugees from Ukraine online.

We are standing on a picturesque Dutch street near the Amstel River. On one side you can see the spire of a Gothic church, on the other side the visitors of the local bar are humming.


The building of the local shelter used to be an office, but the owners found out about the invasion in Ukraine and the flow of refugees and in a couple of weeks they remodeled the building: brought beds, shower cabins, washing machines.

They built a spacious kitchen and a recreation room with two huge TVs. A separate room with beds and a table was set aside for each visiting family.

This is one of many private initiatives that local municipalities actively support. The shelter is not yet open to the press, so we move to a nearby café for a conversation.

"When we were leaving Ukraine, it was March 8 - and our Ukrainian border guards gave us flowers. They stopped all the cars to handle women flowers. We did not understand it, because of the war and the horror everywhere, but it was unexpectedly nice.

"The Dutch welcomed us very well, gave us everything we needed - as well as blankets and for some reason a dozen toothbrushes at once, apparently for the future. Now the shelter is constantly being improved, recently a separate dressing room was installed in the shower room, so you can change your clothes comfortably. It seems like a small thing, but you can still feel cared for in such tiny details.”

The showers and toilets are shared - there are several per floor. But the tenants say they feel more comfortable here, together. Not everyone wants to move in with local families.

"Some people I knew ended up in a family with alcoholics. At first it was unclear, they seemed to be adequate people, and literally a week later the owner drank like the devil. They had never dealt with such things and were frightened. While he was asleep, they packed up and ran out of there. I wouldn't want to get into a similar situation, and here we have our own people and volunteers to turn to if anything happens.”

There are some advantages of living with a family, such as faster receiving of the service civil number (BSN). Without it, you cannot get a job or open a bank account. In shelters, you have to wait several weeks for such a number.

But there are serious disadvantages: the foster family can be strange or unfriendly, and it is not so easy to change it, you have to go to the volunteers again and ask them to find another place.

"A friend of my mom's went to France and ended up with a surprisingly mean hostess who wouldn't let the refugee and her dog leave her room and fed her once a day with some canned food, just to keep them from starving to death. After a while, with the help of volunteers, her friend managed to move them to another family, an absolutely wonderful family. But no one ever understood why the woman took part in the refugee resettlement program in the first place, if she hated them so much.”

However, such stories are the exception to the rule. Most Europeans are sympathetic to Ukrainians and try to help them.

The cafe where we sit brings food to the shelter twice a week - for free. Also a completely private initiative - the owners of the place decided that they could not stay away.

"Recently a car stopped on the street, a woman got out and asked my son, pointing to the shelter: 'Boy, do you live in this house?' When he answered in the affirmative, she pulled a huge basket of sweets out of the car and wished him Happy Easter. We don't even know her name."


The shelter regularly hosts a general practitioner and a psychologist, offers language courses, and helps with resume writing. All medications are prescribed and delivered very quickly.

Photo ANP

Children, as is customary in the Netherlands, almost from the first day of arrival go to school. So far, they don't understand much in class because of the language, but they do a lot of sporting activities or make arts and crafts which help them take their minds off their terrible memories and feel safe. Tutoring sessions in Dutch and English are already planned for spring break.

Most schools in the Netherlands are now decorated with such flags that little Dutch people make in support of Ukraine.


Many of them have young children who cannot be left unattended all day. In addition, the lack of knowledge of the Dutch language closes almost all doors for refugees. It turns out that managers, designers, psychologists, and advertising specialists come to the country, but there are only jobs for greenhouse workers and housemaids.

"Our girls got a job in a restaurant - either Chinese or Japanese - the work is hard, they finish late at night. I myself was offered a job in which I had to carry loads and perform the functions of at least three workers for minimal pay. I declined; I plan to learn the language and find something more suitable."

Nevertheless, shelters are gradually cutting back on Ukrainians' allowances to encourage them to be more active in their job search. For example, in this shelter people have already been warned that starting next week they will be buying laundry detergent at their own expense.

The motives of the Dutch are understandable - refugees should not be stuck in a position of victimhood and constantly rely on the help of others.

But on the other hand, not everyone in the shelters has received BSN codes yet, and without them it is impossible to get an official job. The Dutch government will have to solve this contradiction as quickly as possible.

However, even with a BSN code, the options for newcomers are not very diverse - cleaning in hotels or apartments, work in a warehouse, in greenhouses, or loader jobs. Higher education obtained in Ukraine is unlikely to help find a decent office position in the Netherlands.

Each city and municipality is primarily concerned with the accommodation of arriving people - many hotels provide their rooms for this purpose, student hostels and office space are used. There is also no problem with food and basic necessities - organizations and individuals send in new donations all the time.

Integration of Ukrainian citizens into the local community remains a global and not insignificant task, because no one can predict how long the hostilities in Ukraine will last.

By Irina Iakovleva

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