• Anna Tsybko | National Communications Officer, IOM Ukraine

Kyiv, Ukraine — As we celebrate International Migrants Day on December 18, it is a time not only to celebrate the incredible journeys of those who have either chosen or been forced to relocate but also to recognize the transformative potential migration holds for societies globally. This day is dedicated to highlighting migration as a solution to various global challenges, showcasing personal stories that illustrate the power of acting today for a better tomorrow. 

Throughout history, people have migrated for a myriad of reasons – seeking refuge from war, better economic opportunities, or simply a desire for a new beginning. In today’s Ukraine, the context of migration is linked to forced displacement as a result of the Russian full-scale invasion. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) Mission in Ukraine emphasizes the need to position migration as a crucial part of the solution to the multifaceted challenges faced by the people in Ukraine. Migration in Ukraine has the transformative potential not only to provide refuge but also to enrich communities and bring about positive change. 

Anatolii, displaced from Kherson region, now raises awareness about countertrafficking issues and teaches 3D printing to local youth in Pervomaisk, Mykolaiv region. Photo: Stanislav Kalach/IOM Ukraine

Anatolii's story is a poignant example. Once an orphan from a village in Kherson region, he and his adoptive family managed to escape the area controlled by the Russian military, relocating to Pervomaisk, Mykolaiv region. There, Anatolii not only pursued higher education at a university but also found a unique way to contribute to the host community.  

“The first few weeks after moving to Pervomaisk were very difficult — a new city where I did not know anyone,” shares 19-year-old Anatolii about his initial challenges.  

However, Anatolii decided to get engaged in the local community, and began volunteering at a local NGO helping displaced people like himself. This allowed him to expand his social circle and discover IOM’s summer school “Together to Success,” designed to empower Ukrainian youth. There, young people can learn, network and raise awareness about counter-trafficking, including safe migration practices, reducing their vulnerabilities and chances of engaging in risky behavior.  

In 2023, IOM organized four such schools across different regions of the country that brought together displaced people across Ukraine and active leaders of host communities.  

Anatolii conducting anti-trafficking awareness training for local youth in Pervomaisk and teaching them about 3D printing. Photo: Stanislav Kalach/IOM

Anatolii’s journey took an exciting turn after attending IOM’s summer school:  

"Having taken part in the summer school, I assembled a small team, and together we applied for an IOM grant to delve into 3D printing."  

Recognizing the transformative power of education, Anatolii decided to conduct counter-trafficking awareness sessions in his host community, organizing multiple workshops for high school students in Pervomaisk. The sessions, aimed at reducing vulnerabilities of the community to human trafficking issues and provided a platform to talk about the potential risks. Anatolii's efforts go beyond personal success, they contribute to building stronger communities. 

Anatolii conducting anti-trafficking awareness training for local youth in Pervomaisk and teaching them about 3D printing. Photo: Stanislav Kalach/IOM

Whether it's individuals like Anatolii, humanitarian organizations, or members of host communities, everyone has a role to play in finding solutions and inspiring others to act. Partnerships lie at the heart of harnessing migration's potential, emphasizing that it is not solely the responsibility of one person but a collaborative effort. 

Denys relocated his café from Dnipro to Lviv. Photo: Daria Dovzhenko/IOM Ukraine

A coffee shop that relocated from Dnipro to Lviv serves as a stark example of a collaborative effort to create a better future despite displacement. “Mon Ami,” a café handcrafting French macaroons, known for being "very pet-friendly," is now contributing to the local economy in Lviv thanks to IOM business grant.

What began as a small-scale operation in Denys’ own kitchen in Dnipro over a decade ago burgeoned into a few successful storefronts. However, with the onset of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, Denys had to relocate his business, forcing him to sell some equipment in order to accommodate the abrupt move.  Struggling initially with the challenges of displacement, he found support through IOM business grant that allowed him to purchase the necessary equipment, raw materials and furniture for the café.  Now firmly rooted in the Lviv small business community, Denys has the dream to expand more.  

“No one knows what tomorrow holds. That's why it's important to be optimistic, fear nothing and take action,” shares Denys.  

Migration is not just about physical movement but also a journey of personal and societal transformation. The story of Inna, an internally displaced woman from Soledar, Donetsk region, is one of many who face challenges starting anew. Forced to relocate to Vinnytsia in 2022, Inna turned adversity into an opportunity to advocate for change and empower others in similar situations.  

Inna, displaced from Soledar. Photo: Maryna Orekhova/IOM Ukraine

In her native Soledar, Inna worked as an administrative assistant in a local municipality office. Following her relocation and the need to secure a job, she had to undergo a complete career change a few times over. Exploring various avenues, she went from acquiring skills as a lactation counselor to joining a civil organization, where she now dedicates herself to assisting displaced people like herself: 

"When you share a similar experience, having lost everything, only then can you truly understand the plight of another person who has faced the same misfortune. Though it was challenging to transition to a different line of work, I am grateful for the opportunity to assist these families." 

Inna's story serves as a reminder that even in the face of displacement, individuals can become catalysts for positive change within their accepting communities. By amplifying the voices of those affected, we ensure that migration is not only seen as a challenge but an opportunity for resilience and growth. 

Through personal stories like Anatolii's, Denys’ and Inna’s, displacement can be seen to transform communities for the better. As we advocate for the rights of migrants and encourage the international community to work together, let us remember that each individual, each story, contributes to the collective power of migration. By acting today, we pave the way for a better tomorrow, where the power of migration is harnessed for the benefit of all. 

IOM’s assistance is made possible through the financial support of partners and donors.  

SDG 4 - Quality Education
SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
SDG 9 - Industries, Innovation and Infrastructure
SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities