Ukrainian refugees now live in dozens of different countries, from Europe and the U.S. to the UAE. The locals are chiefly supportive, although there’s a growing war-weariness and a desire for it all to end.
Where Ukrainian refugees live
Approximately 5.1 million Ukrainians have left the country due to the full-scale invasion, and up to 1 million have returned home later.
According to the National Institute for Strategic Studies, the refugees have mainly fled to Poland (2.9 million). Many of them also went to:
- Romania — 774 thousand;
- Hungary — 490 thousand;
- Moldova — 443 thousand;
- Slovakia — 354 thousand.
One needs to understand, though, that a large number of refugees who had come to Poland later traveled further, so a Ukrainian who fled from hostilities can now be found almost anywhere in the world.
In general, Ukrainian refugees receive a warm welcome in Europe, which is said to be, among other reasons, due to the fact that 90% of them are women and children.
The high level of education and qualifications of the Ukrainians and their language proficiency are also highly appreciated, as they significantly increase their chances for integration.
How the EU helps and whether the Ukrainians are going to return home
With respect to the help Ukrainians receive from the EU, it is increasingly becoming centered around their integration.
For example, the European Commission has simplified the procedure for the recognition of diplomas and qualifications. The possibilities of obtaining national documents, for example, by ethnic Bulgarians, have also been improved. Finnish and Lithuanian universities provide grants to Ukrainian students.
At the same time, the refugees still face difficulties while staying abroad and trying to integrate. This is evident from the survey conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology in May 2022. According to it, 85.1% of Ukrainians plan for the future of their children in Ukraine if Ukraine joins NATO or obtains stronger security guarantees.
In the case of Russia's capitulation and disarmament, 84.5% have the same plans. Even if the war continues as it is now, 42.9% of the respondents plan to come back to Ukraine.
Ella Libanova, the director of the Institute for Demography and Social Studies, says that about 10–15% of Ukrainians are not going to return, while the majority want to come back home.
Who supports the Ukrainians the most?
The biggest supporters of additional sanctions against Russia are still the British, Canadians, Americans, Poles, Dutch, and Swedes.
On the other hand, Turkey, Israel, India, and Saudi Arabia want to maintain their relationships with Russia.
Tetiana Skrypchenko, an analyst of the Sociological Group "Rating", pointed out in her article for the EP that Latin American countries are far from the context of the war between Ukraine and Russia, although they don't strive to pursue their relations with Russia.
The prevailing part of Europe stands with Ukraine, apart from Hungary. France, Germany, and Italy tried to save their relations with Russia but later distanced themselves.
Such countries as the U.K., the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Australia, and the U.S. support giving all kinds of aid to Ukraine.
France: compassion, but no crowdfunding for armored vests
In the first three weeks, the French have been extremely sympathetic toward Ukrainian refugees, showing much concern about the war in Ukraine, giving donations, and helping the refugees.
However, they have grown somewhat tired by now, and there’s a growing number of cases where displaced Ukrainians have been demanded to move out or find a job.
Among the personal concerns of the French, a fear of a nuclear strike has been mentioned. Meanwhile, the French youth often insist on being "not political".
"They said they’re too young to understand politics. And they’re having an election soon!" one of the Ukrainian refugees said.
Attitudes vary depending on the region. For instance, in the southwest of France, where there’s a large English community, they remain positive.
A lot of rallies are held in Brittany, where refugees are actively integrated into local cultural events such as festivals, concerts, fairs, and sports events. Ukrainians are helped with travel, settlement, work, documents, translations, and insurance.
At the same time, the attitude toward the needs of the Ukrainian military is completely different: the locals willingly provide humanitarian aid to refugees, but they don’t want to donate to the army (helmets, body armor, etc.).
Sweden: concerned about their own safety
In Sweden, despite sympathy for the Ukrainians, people are becoming increasingly less concerned about the war. Swedes have a very negative attitude toward Russian aggression in Ukraine, they sympathize and wish the Ukrainians victory, but are more worried about the safety of their own country.
There is still a lot of information about the war in the news, but the focus has shifted: against the backdrop of Sweden's accession to NATO, the Swedes have felt a threat to themselves from Russia and have begun to raise military resources.
For example, during the marines’ holiday, the local authorities anchored a huge warship in the harbor with a bunch of aircraft to calm people down.
The refugees note that the Swedes have grown somewhat less enthusiastic about helping because they are used to solving all problems themselves. Nevertheless, caring locals hold many events in support of Ukrainians, from library readings to job fairs.
Some benefits are still available. For example, public transport in Stockholm is still free, but intercity buses already aren’t.
Sweden was not ready for the inflow of Ukrainian refugees, and that’s why help from the government became available two months after their arrival.
"At all stages of registration, documents were getting lost constantly. The waiting period for each piece of paper spanned for weeks or more. But the Swedes themselves, as people, are wonderful. They help with everything necessary. Their sympathy is practical," says Ukrainian Kateryna.
She says that in big cities, volunteers organize Swedish language courses, try to find a temporary residence, and provide food and clothes.
"Financial assistance is limited, so our people are eager to get jobs, but it’s difficult if you don’t speak Swedish. Everything varies from case to case and depends on the human factor. The war remains in the news, and rallies in city squares are regular," she says.
Bulgaria — Kremlin narratives and Russians
In Bulgaria, the situation is more complicated: many locals believe that "both sides are to blame" for the war, which was caused by "Zelenskyy's careless politics" because "there was no need to tease Russia," says refugee Oleksandra.
Bulgarians sympathize with Ukrainians, but merely from a human standpoint, because having to flee entails distress, and war, in general, is bad.
"Nevertheless, in most positions they are either neutral, saying it's none of their business what's over there in Ukraine, or they are inclined toward Russia, thinking that it was provoked," the refugee says.
She also adds that there are many Russians in Bulgaria who own real estate and come there for the summer, and that Russian channels on television are also popular.
"In general, the attitude of Bulgarians can be described as: we'd rather not get into trouble," Oleksandra says.
However, attitudes toward Ukrainians vary largely in different Bulgarian regions, since they help a lot in some cities, but there are also regions where you can get cursed.
Another refugee who didn’t disclose her name says that she witnessed provocative reproaches to Ukrainians in a humanitarian center, where documents for protection were executed:
"Many blamed us for the surge in prices, while we can have everything for free. To them, our cars are too expensive and our dogs too purebred. They suggest we give up part of our country to stop the war. However, there are kind people here too, although some are already tired.
Spain: Bravo Ucrania graffiti
Catalonia is very Ukraine-friendly, refugee Maria says, with Bravo Ucrania graffiti and other signs displayed everywhere. Another refugee, Zosia, also writes that the Spanish sympathized with Ukrainians very much.
"When they hear we’re from Ukraine and see our children, they clutch their chest and keep saying something about God and the Mother of God," she said.
However, Ukrainian refugees say that after a few months of the war, the Spanish started to grow tired of them.
There’s almost no financial assistance, but Spain has provided Ukrainians with all the documents and opportunities, including health insurance, social insurance, and registration.
"That means Spain teaches you to fish, but then you have to feed yourself," says Zosia.
Estonia: concerned about jobs
Maxim, who currently lives in Estonia, says that the locals, both Russian-speaking and native Estonians, are generally quite friendly and sympathetic.
"There are minor concerns that the migrants may start taking their jobs and be a burden in general, especially in the Russian-speaking Narva," he said.
However, some time ago, flags and banners in support of Ukraine were literally everywhere in Estonia, the man notes.
"I heard many locals say: "I don’t quite understand if I’m in Estonia or Ukraine." But now it seems that it has calmed down," Max says.
He said that the Estonian government has organized its refugee support program as follows: people are granted Elamisluba (the local temporary residence permit) for a term of 1 year.
After having gotten elamisluba, one can register with an employment office, which gives an opportunity to sign a contract with a family doctor and receive unemployment benefits.
Moreover, Estonia offers jobs to Ukrainians, and employers are granted tax exemptions for helping refugees integrate.
Refugees are granted free travel on public transport within the city where they are registered and can attend Estonian language courses from the University of Tartu, while children can attend local schools.
The Estonians also try to contend with pro-Russian "vatniks" who get unhinged. For example, they have recently stripped the local organizer of WWII-themed pro-Russian rallies and a man who tried to donate a batch of quadcopters to the Russian army of their citizenship. Moreover, Estonia introduced fines for any form of public display of "Z" symbols.
Germany: Ukrainian flags and swimming pool tickets
Until recently, many Ukrainian flags could still be seen on the streets of Germany.
Refugee Maryna describes the predominant attitude of Germans as follows:
"What Putin does to Ukraine is horrible! We want to help you so much! Let’s hold a concert, raise money, and give refugees free pool tickets! We’re good, empathetic, and humane people, aren’t we? Weapons? Well, that’s complicated. You’d use it to shoot people, right? We’d rather help in some other way. Do you want more pool tickets?"
Andrii, whose mother moved to Germany, notes that Ukrainians chiefly try to be grateful guests, and the Germans do their best to support them. He noticed no social tension caused by the influx of Ukrainians, provided that the Germans are generally much less politicized.
"Political talks are only acceptable in a circle of close friends," he says.
Another refugee, Olga, complains about the German red tape, which takes too much time and may yield nothing at all.
As Tetiana, another Ukrainian, says, although Germans treat Ukrainians fairly, about 30–40% of families have already returned home.
"The benefits are getting reduced, and the centers opened for Ukrainians are being gradually curtailed. Rampant bureaucracy, lack of language proficiency, and housing problems force many refugees to go back home or to other countries," she explained.
At the same time, according to Tetiana, some manage to find a job, study the language, and integrate children.
I think the Germans have already grown tired; they don’t like the rising prices and they want it all to end at last," she sums up.
For her part, Ukrainian Oleksandra notes that Germany is very different. For example, in Nuremberg, there’s much help with residence, translation, and humanitarian aid. On the other hand, channels such as Russia-1 have been brainwashing the locals for decades.
"In everyday conversations, they often talk about inflation, expensive fuel, and Ukraine as an excuse for politicians to avoid discussing internal problems. They say Ukrainians are lucky because doors are being opened for them, unlike those who came from post-Soviet countries in the 1990-s and paved their own way," she explained.
Oleksandra also added that it’s easier for Ukrainians to find a lower-level job in Germany, so a dentist becomes an assistant, and a licensed nurse works as an auxiliary nurse.
Slovakia: strong support and old pro-Russian men
According to Ukrainian refugees, the Slovaks support them strongly, and little has changed since the beginning of the war.
"Well, there are some old pro-Russian men, but they are sparse and quiet. The overall attitude is "putin kokot" (Putin is a d*ckhead)," said Yan.
Refugee Lesia, for her part, has met Slovak pensioners who wished Ukrainians to be conquered by Putin because everything got more expensive for them.
"But there are not many of them. People are sincerely trying to help," she said.
Turkey: rallies and help for Prytula
In Turkey, requests from Ukrainian refugees first received many responses, humanitarian aid was collected, and rallies in Istanbul were held daily until about May.
However, already in June, many Ukrainians started seeking to return to Ukraine because the Turkish government didn’t support them like it was in Europe, and only the locals were helping refugees.
Interestingly, unlike Europeans, the Turks respond more to security fundraisers than humanitarian requests (for instance, they repost Serhiy Prytula’s fundraisers).
"As to the Turks themselves, they remain loyal to Ukraine in their hearts. They think our countries’ history is similar," refugees say.
The U.S.: the people are compassionate, but the government doesn’t help
Not many Ukrainian refugees went as far as the U.S., but they say that the Americans still sympathize, and we remain a topical issue for them.
At the same time, there’s no help from the government, so Ukrainian refugees can only dream of financial assistance, as well as free health insurance, residence, or travel.
"We’ve been lucky to have rented a place here, let alone get it for free. It’s very hard when you have no credit history and no proof of income," says Anna.
She says that from April 19 they can apply for temporary status, which allows them to stay for 1.5 years, and also get a work permit if they have resided in the U.S. since April 11.
"We applied on the first day, April 19, and still have received no response. Maybe we’ll get a work permit in six months or a year. Alas," she complains.
Romania: no Ukraine fatigue
Ukrainian refugees say that everyone supports them there, from old women on a bus to salesmen on the market or managers in global companies.
Tetiana said that in the first two months she never felt that their attitude had somehow changed, and the Romanians didn’t grow tired of the Ukrainians. She returned to Kyiv later but saw no difference until her departure.
"The Romanians are awesome," the Ukrainian thinks.
Ireland: extremely sympathetic
Speaking of Ireland, refugee Natalia, who lives in West Dublin, says that the help has been very strong from the beginning.
"Now some processes have been standardized, but the Ukrainian union has assumed a great share of the work. I am not in a very common situation because I live in a host family of a high "class" and I myself also don’t lag behind, since I’ve found a job that almost fits my specialty," she said.
Natalya admits that she is afraid there will be a setback in the attitude toward Ukrainians and the volunteers will tire, so she is preparing to be independent.
Refugee Evhenia says the same:
"We have been in Ireland for more than two months, and the attitude’s been wonderful, everyone is kind and sympathetic!"
Austria: fear of the fuel prices
As to Austria, Ukrainian refugees say that they have received quite a fair welcome.
"What I like about Austria is that we’re not the first and certainly not the last to seek refuge here. Their attitude is very temperate, without all those signs of boundless love," Olha noted.
For her part, Ukrainian Iryna, when speaking about the locals and their attitude, says that at first they were incredibly hospitable and generous, but now the situation is changing:
"The corridor of empathy is now fading and almost closing. People have started to live their lives "without war and Ukraine"."
Other refugees think that the main change in the attitude of Austrians toward Ukrainians will occur in autumn. The reason is natural gas and fuel prices.
"Even the most well-educated Austrians start saying: Well, you understand, we won’t last long like that. There should be a compromise," one Ukrainian says.
The Czech Republic: attitudes depend on wealth and education
In the Czech Republic, a big difference can be felt in the attitude toward Ukrainian refugees depending on people’s wealth and education.
"Educated people who know the history and understand what’s going on keep helping and treat us well in general," says refugee Alona.
Those with a lower standard of living who work in the manufacturing sector and depend heavily on overtime payments and shifts are not satisfied, she adds. The woman says that such Czechs believe that the government's policy toward Ukrainians discriminates against the Czechs themselves.
There is also a fairly high number of eurosceptics in the Czech Republic, and residents of resort locations where there have traditionally been many Russian tourists are outraged at Ukrainians.
Another refugee, Renata, nevertheless says that she encountered good attitudes and support from the Czechs, although there is indeed a very clear correlation between wealth and attitudes.
"It can be seen clearly that in Prague, especially in the "more beautiful" districts, there’s one attitude, while in more depressed Czech cities, it’s completely different," she explains.
Lithuania: Bayraktar fundraising and car transit
Refugee Iryna says that she hasn’t noticed any changes in attitude toward her personally, although in the "Ukrainians in Lithuania" group where she’s a moderator, she can feel a certain level of negative attitudes from Lithuanians, as well as from Russians who live there.
The main complaints against Ukrainians are that they get a lot of things for free, and they misuse them.
"Some of our fellow citizens really look and behave in such a way that I’m embarrassed for them," Iryna complains.
At the same time, there’s been a lot of help for Ukrainians from volunteer organizations that worked systematically from the very beginning, and they continue their work.
For the part of the government, however, some benefits have been canceled (for example, free kindergartens), but Lithuania does a lot at the diplomatic and political level and supplies weapons.
Some Lithuanians also help in the transit of cars for the army and carry humanitarian aid.
"Finally, after the case of fundraising for a Bayraktar drone by the three-million-strong Lithuanian people, there can be no doubt about their loyalty to Ukraine. Only boundless gratitude," says the refugee.
The United Kingdom: collecting clothes and learning Ukrainian
Although Ukrainians started coming to the U.K. only in April, they have been met with enthusiastic support.
The locals display Ukrainian flags, many Brits carry Ukrainian symbols, and many administrative buildings display Ukrainian flags next to British ones.
Refugee Olha says that Ukrainian children get help with their adaptation in British schools, and directors send parents and children simple Ukrainian phrases so they can greet their peers from Ukraine. Many events in support of Kyiv are also held.
The refugees also say that almost all adult Ukrainians are already studying English in college for free, while the Brits learn Ukrainian using Duolingo.
"They help on all levels: people, authorities, community, and church. However, there’s less talk about Ukraine in the news and more about rising prices," Olha says.
The Brits collect clothes to give them to Ukrainian children and support adults at work.
Denmark: high prices but wholehearted Danes
The Danes wholeheartedly wish to help Ukrainian refugees, as Ukrainian Julia says.
Meanwhile, some help centers had already closed in the first two months of the invasion, and some are working only one day a week, while free travel was canceled on July 1.
However, everything about social benefits and official assistance is very clear in Denmark. For example, Ukrainians are offered a full medical examination and language courses.
"Housing and financial assistance are provided to those who need them. But the country is very expensive to live in, so many Ukrainians move to other countries or go back to Ukraine if they have a place to come back to," the refugee says.
Italy: treated Ukrainians like savages but changed their minds
Nelli, who lives in the Abruzzo region on the Adriatic Sea, says there is no place to accept Ukrainians there anymore because the hotels are packed.
"In general, as far as I can feel, they treat us like substandard tourists, as we’ve apparently arrived in large numbers but don't spend money. They try to make a little money from us, but we don’t buy it. I wouldn't say that anything has changed, except that the Italians have learned Russian on a basic level, which is spoken by 99% of the refugees here," says Nelli.
However, Ukrainians can still live in hotels for free, she notes.
Pavlo shares the impressions of his wife, who lives in Sicily. She says that in the first days, the locals treated Ukrainians as if they were savages or kids.
"The first days: This is a fridge, we store food here. This is a washing machine, it washes clothes... it was polite but said as if to kids or savages. A couple of days later: Is this a laptop you bought? Do you really work remotely? (sincere astonishment)," she said.
But after some time, after having seen a child's performance at a piano concert, a performance in national costumes on stage with folk dances, and pictures of the refugee's home city, the Italians changed their attitude and recognized that Ukraine is "a level, a culture".
Poland: bring food and toys, but grew a bit tired
In Poland, Ukrainians are mostly treated well. Refugee Myroslava, for example, claims that she and her family live in a small village far from major cities, and that the local gmina (community) looks after them.
"I will be grateful to them for the rest of my life. They welcomed us like we were their own family! They provided housing and helped with clothes and everything necessary for hygiene. The local residents support us with everything they can. They saw that my sister had a spitz and they brought dog food without being asked. For children, it's just a fairy tale here. They were given toys, clothes, shoes, candies, and even a keyboard synthesizer. When the locals found out that our children went to a music school in Ukraine, they arranged for them to continue their studies here," she said.
Four months after the invasion, the Poles have become less passionate, but maximum support can still be felt both from the people and the government.
However, since July 1, the government has stopped paying families 40 zlotys per refugee — it should be noted that Warsaw has yet to receive funding from the EU, which was promised to compensate for their assistance to refugees.
Daria, who lives in Weicherów near Gdańsk, admits that in three months the attitude has changed for the worse: Poles complain that Ukrainians want everything for free, take the benefits for granted, and aren’t eager to find a job.
"It infuriates the Poles, who sponsor the budget with their taxes," she said.
Ukrainian Anna says that different stories can happen where refugees have to live under the same roof with Polish families:
"There can be weariness or hints that they should move out as soon as possible. I’ve heard this from people I know from about May, and that was when many refugees started to go back to Ukraine."
Nevertheless, other refugees say that there are still baskets in Warsaw supermarkets where people put food to help Ukrainians, and these baskets are full every day.
Cyprus: quick legalization and work
Ukrainian refugees who got to Cyprus say that support is tangible there, although social assistance is quite modest.
However, the procedures for Ukrainians to legalize their stay have been simplified to the maximum extent, so refugees can get a job legally without much hustle. The children go to school, and local volunteers also help.
The Netherlands: watching at the Russian consulate
In the Netherlands, Ukrainian refugees are generally welcomed. The locals keep displaying Ukrainian flags and holding rallies near the Russian consulate, where they have been on a daily watch for almost four months.
Moreover, local employers readily hire Ukrainians and show it in their reports. However, humanitarian aid for Ukrainian refugees has somewhat dwindled.
Israel: the volunteers help, but the government doesn’t
In Israel, the refugees get help, but mostly from volunteers who come from the former USSR countries.
The government doesn’t do its best because it’s busy with domestic politics and it also doesn’t communicate a clear pro-Ukrainian position internationally, Ukrainians say.
Norway: watching the war in Ukraine
The attitude toward Ukrainian refugees in Norway hasn’t worsened, although there’s less news about Ukraine and the war, refugee Hanna says.
"There’s less news, but people are watching. There are not many refugees here, and the processes are rather sluggish," she noted.
She says that all the locals who are more or less informed about the subject understand that the war is still going on, judging from their experience with the Bosnians, as there’s quite a large Bosnian diaspora in Norway because many families fled there from Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992–94.
Georgia: the locals help, but the government doesn’t
The Georgians help Ukrainian refugees a lot; they are always friendly since they also experienced the Russian invasion, displaced Ukrainians say.
At the same time, there's no help from the government. Interestingly, there are many Russians and Belarussians living in Batumi, but they very often wear Ukrainian symbols.
Croatia: compassion and Russian display stands
The Croatians are very sympathetic to Ukrainians because they remember their own war very well, refugee Yaroslava says.
"I haven’t encountered any negative attitudes, considering that the Croatians aren’t aggressive in general," she noted.
Ukrainian flags are hanging on the streets, although at a street food festival, there were also Russian display stands with a samovar one stand apart from the Ukrainian ones.
Kenya: surprised that the war is still going on
There were also Ukrainians who went to Africa. For example, refugee Olena says that people in Kenya are very surprised when she says that the war is far from finished.
"They think it’s already over," she explained.
The Emirates: war is bad for everyone
Refugee Liudmyla, who lives in the UAE, says that the locals often share their opinion that the war is bad for the whole world and that Russia is stronger, so "somehow it should be stopped already."
She says that such thoughts most often come from Indians and Filipinos, while Syrians are very sympathetic.
"Europeans still show support but complain of rising prices. There’s a weariness of the situation that can be felt," she sums up.
Olena, another refugee, says that in the UAE, each Afghan taxi driver "knows" that we have a war because of the U.S., as the Russians told him.
"Everyone asks questions, often wondering if the war is not over and how people live there. The Syrians are sympathetic, I second that. Some British women and a Romanian woman were the ones who helped me the most here. Meanwhile, numerous Russians and pro-Russian Belarusians are really annoying," she noted.