Stories of our clients

The organization SIMI was recently contacted by a woman named Ruslana. Born in Ukraine, she is 35 years old and lives in the Czech Republic with her 14 year old daughter. She has been living in the Czech Republic for the past 15 years, since 2008, with a permanent residency status. Back in her homeland of the Ukraine she has studied pedagogy at one of the universities, wanting to become a teacher. But after her father died, she decided to discontinue her studies in order to start working and provide for her family. The salary she was receiving as an assistant at the post office or as a shop assistant was not enough to support her family. Therefore she decided to quit her studies completely and try her luck at finding a better job somewhere abroad. Like many other Ukrainian nationals, The Czech Republic was her final decision due to the geographical, linguistic, and cultural proximity of these two countries. Another factor in this decision was that several people from her city had work experience in the Czech Republic. Her friends advised her that the easiest and the fastest way to get a residency permit and a job in the Czech Republic was to start running her own business. Therefore she approached a middleman who she knew well, he helped her deal with all of the necessary documents. She arrived to the Czech Republic and thanks to the recommendations found a job very quickly – a position as a cleaning lady at a big hotel in Prague. Ruslana was very happy. Coming from a small town she ended up in a big city, earning above average salary for a Ukrainian national. She was finally independent and able to support her family in Ukraine. At work she met a man who was a foreign national as well, and he soon became her boyfriend. After a while she got pregnant and gave birth to a child. She was working during her pregnancy and went back to work shortly after childbirth. Her friend, who had a child as well, was helping her by filling in on her shifts. Over time she found many opportunities, cleaning or helping in kitchens. Demand for her cleaning services grew so much that Ruslana decided to establish a cleaning agency that would employ Ukrainians. The company started to become relatively successful, but unfortunately during this time her relationship with her boyfriend became sour and he left the family. But Ruslana worked on, spending all her time on work or the upbringing of her daughter. Suddenly however, during the time of greatest demand for her cleaning services, Ruslana’s mother fell ill while still living in Ukraine. Ruslana’s mother was seriously ill and Ruslana and her daughter went to the Ukraine and took care of her until her last days. Ruslana and her daughter returned to the Czech Republic after four months. The company had meanwhile lost most of its clientele and Ruslana had a difficult time finding interested clients. After some time there was so little demand for the agency’s services that she stopped employing workers, and worked as a cleaning lady herself. Till this day Ruslana is working as a cleaning lady, but the demand for her services is dwindling. Reduced demand can be associated with the long-term recession in Europe. Due to the lack of jobs in Czech Republic, many of her acquaintances left to work in other European countries or Russia, others returned home to Ukraine. The agency she currently works for that is sending her to various jobs, is secretive in their activities because of fears of a new system that applies to the workplace, the so called “švarcsystém”. Ruslana has a trade license and could be hired to work directly for hotels and other places, but since it is too much administrative work for them, they prefer to hire workers through an agency. Ruslana uses most of her income on rent, utilities and basic needs here in the Czech Republic, but still finds a little money to send to her family in Ukraine. Her income was so low last month, that she has no idea whether she will have enough for next month's rent. She never applied for social benefits and as an entrepreneur she would not be eligible. The Czech Republic is her home - her daughter speaks Czech better than Ukrainian, attends school and has all her friends here - because of this Ruslana wants to stay in the Czech Republic. She says "I have been living in Prague for 15 years with small interruptions. All this time I worked very hard, I did not ask for anything from the state and I did not get anything for free. In the last two years after a series of government measures, I feel that nobody wants me here and I have to leave. What I don’t understand is what I did wrong ... "

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