“I was born and raised in Ukraine. At the age of 15, I came to Austria as an exchange student. At that time, I spent half a year living with an Indian family in Vienna, who had immigrated to Austria almost 30 years earlier. Whilst living with them, I took a liking to the enjoyable flavors of the Viennese Schnitzel and spicy Indian cuisine. My Indian friends often encouraged me to learn German and to be open-minded.
I really enjoyed discovering Austria and getting to know its Indian community. It was an experience that has helped me a lot in life, particularly when dealing with people of different cultural backgrounds. Another thing that I learned from my Austrian friends of Indian origin was to view integration as an opportunity and how enriching it is to preserve one’s own cultural tradition whilst simultaneously being a good and loyal citizen of the country one chooses to reside in.
When my exchange programme in Austria came to an end, I moved back to Ukraine, resolving to be a global citizen who is prepared to go anywhere in the world. Consequently, I decided to study history and international relations abroad and moved back to Austria for this purpose and completed a part of my studies in Canada. Currently, I am working on Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration programmes in Vienna. Dealing with people who wish to voluntarily return to their countries of origin has allowed me experience a new aspect of migration.
Thinking about the generation of my parents, who grew up behind the iron curtain in the Soviet Union, I feel very fortunate for being able to see different parts of the world. That would not have been possible for my parents during their student life. All in all, my migration experience has taught me the relevance of the timeless advice offered by Taras Shevchenko, a Ukrainian poet of the 19th century: “Learn from others and do not shun your own”.