English courses give Ukrainian refugees new opportunities

Ukrainian refugees have many skills that they would like to bring to Denmark. They want to contribute to the society they are now part of. An English course gives them better opportunities to create a good life in Denmark. We need your help to get more English courses up and running – give a Christmas gift that makes a difference.

The English language is not a major part of everyday life in Ukraine, and English is even less important in the education system. Aid Ukraine Denmark has been organizing English courses at Studieskolen for Ukrainian refugees for over a year with the help of financial contributions from companies, foundations and individuals. Here, Ukrainians improve their English skills with the aim of finding employment.

It costs 1400 DKK for seven weeks of intensive English lessons per student. Aid Ukraine Denmark and Studieskolen have had good results with the “Business and Job” courses, which have helped many Ukrainian refugees find jobs or internships.

Mette and Svala from Aid Ukraine went to the end of term English course on a particularly wet Thursday in November to talk to the students about what they have gained from the course. The table was set with coffee, biscuits and Ukrainian chocolates and the conversation was lively – in English.

“I just had my first job interview!” enthuses Kateryna Shebalina, a project manager back in Kyiv. The seven-week English course improved her English skills to such an extent that she was able to write an English job application that landed her a job interview. Something she couldn’t do before.

Next to her is Artur Bulhakov, who was a professor of law in Kharkiv. “Copenhagen is very international, so English is very important here,” he says, and continues: “English provides access to education, to the municipality – indeed to society.”

A study by the international education organization EF Education First rated English proficiency in Ukraine as “moderate”. The country was ranked 30th out of 35 European countries.

Anna Ivankova, a cosmetologist in Ukraine, has improved her English more in the last two months than in the last 22 years. “The employees from the municipality have even noticed,” she says happily.

Ukrainian is the only official language in Ukraine and is spoken by the majority, but around 30% of the population speaks partial or only Russian. Tetiana Donska comes from eastern Ukraine, where there is a strong Russian influence. And even less English is spoken here than in the rest of the country.

When she started the course, she only knew four words in English: mother, father, sister, brother. Since she couldn’t communicate in Danish or English, she could only get cleaning jobs, even though she has a degree in design and economics. Two months later, she has improved her English so much that she now has an internship as an assistant designer.

We talk to another group of students about what English language learning has meant to them in their everyday lives. One works as a chef at a street food market, now she can talk to the customers. Another works as a waiter and now she can take orders from customers. A third can now finally express his gratitude to the municipality in words.

In student feedback, English teacher Svetlana is praised for her professionalism, clear grammar rules and useful topics. The feedback from the students shows that 100% of them were satisfied with the course and 90% rated that they gained “a lot” of new knowledge.

An English course gives Ukrainians an important tool to create a good life in Denmark. As they expand their language skills, they increase their chances of getting a professionally relevant job, which improves their quality of life. It also provides a sense of contributing to society and, not least, an opportunity to communicate and socialize with Danes.

Before we rounded off Thursday’s Christmas party, there was one last thing to do: Vasil Sashchuk, who works as a choir singer at the Copenhagen Opera House, sang for us. He had chosen a Ukrainian folk song about a son who leaves home at a young age and when he returns, everything has changed – except nature. Nature remains as we pass away. He sings beautifully and passionately, and everyone listens intently.

Give a Christmas gift that makes a difference. We currently have a large waiting list for our English courses, so we hope that you or your workplace would like to make a donation.

You can support via the link: https://www.aidukraine.dk/offer-help/