"For me, it had also a bigger meaning: to support my fellow countrymen suffering from the war in Ukraine, being here in Sweden. We approached to work as a startup. We needed to build an effective and at the same time flexible structure with different departments: events, mentors & community, social media, and podcast Work in Sweden. Since November, I developed my presentation and interpreting skills, learned new apps, and many other things thanks to my colleagues..."
At the beginning of May 2021, I landed in Copenhagen with my final destination to Malmö. It was still pandemic times, my father died from Covid 3 months ago, and I was surprised that in Sweden there were no severe restrictions, only the necessary and rational minimum. I knew very little about the city I was going to live. In my imagination, Malmö was a dark somewhat noir place as it’s in Bron TV series. But what I saw was the sea with fantastic sunsets, endless green fields along the long stretch of beach, and birds, flocks of birds. And the wind!
As I’ve been waiting for my personal number, I’ve had not much to do, although I still worked some hours remotely as a social media manager for a Ukrainian company. It was summer, so I spent time on the beach and took my first Swedish lessons with the teacher before I was allowed to study SFI in November. Although most people freely speak English in Sweden, it was obvious to me that if I want to secure a job, I need to speak Swedish. I worked as a lifestyle journalist and editor in the local editions of international glossy magazines back in my native Ukraine, and language was always the key to my profession.
SFI studies at Komvux Södervarn brought me a lot of fun, new international friends, and fantastic teachers Britt-Marie Goddard, Susanne Jakobsson, and Jessica Ljunggren. I highly recommend an intensive course there! I also started to send out my CV to the companies but mostly got no answer, only one job interview for 6 months. I could say I was stuck at that stage.
Spring 2022 gave me a totally new perspective and view on work-life in Sweden as I entered the Kick-Start Program at the International Citizen Hub Lund. I would compare it with the shower... of different insights and knowledge about the Swedish job market and cultural nuances. But what was most important, I felt that I found a place where I can always come to, ask for advice, or just hang out. I felt finally welcomed. Thank you, Lisa Andersson, Susanne Roosen-Runge, and my group, it was awesome.
One of the pieces of advice to enter the local job market helped me the most. Volunteering! During the summer, I volunteered as a copywriter for Beela network for immigrant women & non-binary people who want to join the tech industry. The atmosphere of support within the team is really amazing. And then I wanted to be a part of some big event in Malmö. There was a time of Malmö Pride, so I joined it. It was the real challenge! Together with the team of volunteers and Pride managers I decorated Folkets Park and Scandic Triangeln for the events, animated guests on a boat ride, helped with organizing workshops in two locations, assisted artists backstage, and carried crates of beer for the party in Moriskan. It was a week filled with various missions, unbelievable teamwork, and laughs. I loved that time! It was the brightest thing that happened to me in Sweden.
Meanwhile, I took the second piece of advice from the Kick-Start program seriously: to find an internship. I did it via the Jobbsprånget site, and for 2 months I was helping with Internal and External Communications at Philip Morris Sweden. I was working remotely because the headquarters of the company was in Stockholm, but during my internship, I was invited to visit them. I’m very grateful to my mentor Cecilia Lilljeforss for introducing me to the corporate culture. I had a chance to work with LinkedIn as a social media, which was new to me as I previously worked with Instagram mostly.
And then I received a message from Johan Kullberg from Malmö Pride. He started working on a new EU project Care Myllret with the goal to help Ukrainian refugees to study languages and find their way to work. And needed a person who knew Ukrainian, English, and Swedish and could work with the participants of the project and the podcast. For me, it had also a bigger meaning: to support my fellow countrymen suffering from the war in Ukraine, being here in Sweden. We approached to work as a startup. We needed to build an effective and at the same time flexible structure with different departments: events, mentors & community, social media, and podcast Work in Sweden. Since November, I developed my presentation and interpreting skills, learned new apps, and many other things thanks to my colleagues Johan Kullberg, Olha Kryshtapovych, Anna Ferrington, Nataliia Neshevets, Peder Isaksson, Julia Sergeeva, Albin Baltazar and our care leaders in folk schools. With our team, we visited 8 schools in Skåne, where Ukrainians study languages within our program. We met people from all the regions of Ukraine whose life has changed dramatically, but they are eager to learn new things and establish their life here. And now Care Myllret and its schools are ready to welcome the new participants who want to take part in our programs.
It’s almost 2 years since I live in Sweden now. I still feel the strong need for adaptation and inclusion into society and, of course, improving my language skills. I want to develop my creative side through my social media career. As a person, I’ve learned to be more patient with my expectations. I understood that I need to exhale a bit, take smaller steps, work in collaboration with others, and keep widening my circles, both friendly and professional. Networking is the main driving force in Sweden, that’s a fact. Recently I went for a fika with three lovely ladies, alumni of the ICHL program, in Limhamn, where we all live. We could not talk enough and promised each other to meet again in the foreseeable future. It was one of the moments when you feel, that your immigrant life turns its bright sight. Because you keep going, keep putting in your efforts every single day.
/ Olena Zaiats