"I'm from Ukraine, but I’ve lived in Portugal for 14 years and I am now a Portuguese citizen too! There are several stages in a human life - mine were rather conventional until I turned 30 years old, and I had all that I had dreamed of. I was married, I was the mother of an eight-year-old boy, and I was at the top of my professional career working as a primary school teacher and a scientific board director in a Ukrainian high-school. However, one day my husband became unemployed and he migrated to Portugal to look for new opportunities. Two years later, I made the decision to join him, putting aside my home, my job, my family and friends. I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t speak Portuguese – but I knew for sure that I was on my way to meet my husband, and that we could follow our dreams together.
I started by working as a babysitter as well as an employee in a local pastry shop, but I also studied Portuguese intensively. I wanted to learn in order to find different a job. At the same time, I became the Regional Director for the Association for Eastern Migrants, acting as the spokesperson in defense of the rights of many migrants living in Portugal. When my husband and I stabilized our situation in Portugal, I decided to go back to university. Then, our son joined us when he turned 14 years old. He is now a doctor, having graduated from Coimbra University. I finished a Master’s degree in Public Administration and I just started a PhD in Legal Sociology in the same University. With the knowledge I have acquired, I presented a pilot project for welcoming refugees to the Miranda do Corvo Foundation. The project was approved and today I am responsible for several refugee families.
The project’s reception was very positive, leading me to create my own organisation in migration and refugee integration in Portugal called “Peaceful Parallel.” My aim is to welcome more refugees with special needs, as well as orphaned children. This work represents one more dream I have managed to achieve. My work for this organisation is still volunteer work, so in addition to this activity I also worked as a sub-director for a hotel before giving it up to dedicate myself exclusively to my organisation. People continue to show solidarity and this gives me the strength to continue helping others get a second chance, as I once did. I work with passion and I feel happy every time I see a smile on the face of someone who benefits from the association, or when I observe them learning Portuguese. I have achieved new dreams in Portugal, I have my family, friends, the "Peaceful Parallel" organisation, and I love my work. Muito Obrigada!"