"Now everything is different, and you need to be able to adapt to the circumstances you find yourself in. I believe that I am in the right place at the right time.”
Originally from Saint Petersburg, Russia, 29-year-old Ekaterina was no stranger to international travel, often flying through Europe to attend photo shoots in beautiful destinations for her work as a stylist. Her job brought her to Krakow, Poland, where she was living when the war in Ukraine escalated last year.
As she watched in horror as images of violence and destruction in Ukraine appeared on her television screen, her thoughts immediately went to her family living there.
“I remember that day very well. I went to bed [on 23 February] feeling extremely anxious,” Ekaterina explains. “When I woke up, I realized that the war had begun. I could not believe that this was reality.’’
While her parents and sister live in Russia, her three brothers and grandmother are in Ukraine. “I called my grandmother, who lives in Odessa (Ukraine), to help her find a bomb shelter close to her home. This feeling of horror, grief; the tragedy of what was happening was unbelievable.”
Ekaterina wanted to find a way to support people in the same position as her and her family. Without hesitation, she immediately put her flourishing career in fashion on hold after feeling called to help.
Before she found work as a stylist, she had previously obtained a law degree and thought that she would use this to do something meaningful in response to the war. She began volunteering and soon found work at the International Organization for Migration (IOM), helping with assessment of needs and vulnerabilities of people fleeing Ukraine. The information, in turn, is analyzed and used by IOM and other humanitarian partners, together with the Polish Government to better inform response efforts.
Being of Russian nationality, Ekaterina was concerned about how she would be perceived, living and working in Poland to help refugees from Ukraine.
“I did not know how people would treat me because of my nationality. In all this time, I have never once been met with any kind of discrimination; only support.”
When asked if she missed her life in Russia, travelling and her work as a stylist, she reaffirms that she is happy living in Krakow and is enjoying her work very much (as well as the Polish zurek- a traditional soup).
Although it is painful for her to be separated from her family, she hopes that one day they can visit her in Poland. Ekaterina remains optimistic and has hope that things will change for the better, believing the war in Ukraine will soon come to an end.
Written by Ewelina Kawczynska, IOM Poland Public Information Coordinator.
"Each person must do something in order to change the world, so that the world becomes a better place. Even if it might seem insignificant, a small step will do."