Refugees from Ukraine face struggles in Korea

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Refugees from Ukraine face struggles in Korea

Zanna Romanenko, 33, left Ukraine and came to Korea last October. [ZANNA ROMANENKO]

Zanna Romanenko, 33, left Ukraine and came to Korea last October. [ZANNA ROMANENKO]

Refugees from Ukraine who came to Korea shared their struggles of living in Korea after fleeing their home country.  
“We need help,” 33-year-old Zanna Romanenko from Ukraine told the JoongAng Ilbo at a church in Ansan, Gyeonggi.
Romanenko used to live with her husband raising their children together at Ukraine before the war broke. Now she is living in a faraway country as an evacuee.  
Her husband had to stay in Ukraine to fight the war, while she is about to give birth to their second child here.
Romanenko left Ukraine in October last year with her eight-year-old son and parent-in-law, passing into Romania.  
Thanks to her husband who is a Koryoin, an ethnic Korean from the former Soviet Union, she was able to get on a flight headed to Korea and find a place to live in Ansan.  
After landing Korea with a short-term visiting visa, she was granted the right to seek limited employment despite receiving a G-1 "Miscellaneous" visa afterwards upon the Ministry of Justice’s approval.  
Although she became eligible to work in the country, she was unable to find a job.
Her rough Korean and the fact that she might leave the country soon were reasons preventing her from finding work.
“Odessa in Ukraine, which is where my husband is, has missiles falling on it, and the electricity goes out quite often,” she sobbed.
“I need to take charge of the household, but there is nothing I can do.”  
Her husband used to work in architecture but lost his job due to the war.
Anastasia Milinovskaya, second from right, and her family [ANASTASIA MILINOVSKAYA]

Anastasia Milinovskaya, second from right, and her family [ANASTASIA MILINOVSKAYA]

Anastasia Milinovskaya says her life changed drastically after the Russia-Ukraine war began in February last year. The 36-year-old, who used to be a farmer in Kherson, left her home country Ukraine in August.  
According to Milionovskaya, she fled to Russia through the Crimean Peninsula and passed through the Baltic states to Poland. She was able to get on a flight to Korea because of her Koryoin husband, but living in a foreign country hasn't been easy.
Her husband, who was issued a H-2 "Work and Visit" visa, was able to find a job, but this was not enough for the family to sustain themselves financially.
Their second child has a difficult time walking or standing due to worsening dermatomyositis.  
Milionovskaya, who has a F-1 "Visiting and Joining" visa, is not eligible for employment in Korea.
“We have no clue when the war will end, and I have no idea how I will live,” she said after attending a Korean-language class at a church in Ansan.
“The only thing I can do now is learn Korean.”
Irina Kim, right, and her mother [IRINA KIM]

Irina Kim, right, and her mother [IRINA KIM]

Irina Kim, a stateless Koryoin who came to Korea four months ago, lost her mother last month.
Kim’s mother had a stoke while leaving home to find a job. She never regained consciousness.  
Her mother’s body had to be placed in the hospital as Kim did not have the money for a mourning altar.
Kim even thought about going back to Ukraine, but as a stateless Koryoin and with limited number of flights traveling from Korea to Ukraine, going back was hardly an option.
“It is devastating as there is nowhere to ask for help in Korea, while facing extremely high medical costs and residential fees,” said another Koryoin who helps Kim.
Hearing these stories, the Justice Ministry permitted last month the issuance of G-1 "Miscellaneous" visas to stateless Koryoin who came to Korea from Ukraine.  
A total of 5,205 Ukrainians were residing in Korea on both short-term and long-term stays as of last December, according to the ministry.
Of them, 3,438 are of Korean ethnicity.
It is estimated that an additional 200 to 300 stateless Koryoin reside in Korea.  
Stateless Koryoin are ethnic Koreans who lost their nationalities after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 when they missed their chance to apply to regain their nationalities.  
At least 3,000 refugees from Ukraine are assumed to have come to Korea, according to the ministry.
“It is difficult for Ukraine refugees to find employment with a temporary resident status,” said Kim Young-sook, secretary general of the Koryoin Cultural Center in Ansan.
“The government needs to provide emergency support for things such as health insurance and residency costs.”  

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