28 March 2023
Brisbane Catholic Education’s (BCE) newest employee Olga Boreiko can’t believe it’s been almost one year since she left war-torn Ukraine.
The economist is being supported to gain experience in BCE offices and schools as part of BCE’s Work and Welcome program, a partnership between BCE and Multicultural Australia helping support refugees to gain valuable work experience.
In 2021 Olga found herself in an underground bunker in Kyiv Ukraine with her two young children, Andrew, age seven and Sacha, age five.
Laughing despite the horror of her situation at the time, Olga describes how fast her life changed overnight.
“We had a nice house, two cars, and one day we had nothing because of the war,” she says.
“Even my Toyota was destroyed by a rocket.”
With her husband sometimes unable to get food to them during missile strikes, Olga knew she needed to find somewhere safe to raise her two boys.
When the missiles were overhead and Russian soldiers were about, Olga says she would tell her boys, “It is all play and not real life,” but despite this she says she could see her children’s happiness fade away.
“There’s only so many times I could try to distract them with an iPad inside the bunker,” she says.
“The scariest part was not knowing if it was Ukrainian or Russian soldiers, it was very hard to tell who we could trust.”
In the middle of the Ukrainian winter and with only two suitcases packed with her children’s warmest clothes, Olga loaded her children into a car and headed for the Polish border.
Leaving her husband behind and with limited access to fuel, water, and food, as well as a 24- hour wait at the border, Olga says, “the trip wasn’t a simple one” and she had to cover her children’s eyes on many occasions to protect them from the scenes around them.
Olga and her children made it to Poland and then Germany where they were met by a friend who was able to take them in for a few months.
While Olga was in Germany, she found out about Australia’s humanitarian visas for Ukrainians.
Although her life in Ukraine had always been difficult, even before the war, Olga says she had always had the ability to travel to places like Cuba and Egypt – so when the idea of Australia came to mind, it didn’t seem so daunting.
“I had watched so many vlogs about Australia, the wonderful beaches and nature and I knew it was somewhere I could see myself raising the boys,” she says.
“Although we didn’t know any English when we arrived, it didn’t deter our family because we had heard that the people in Australia were good and kind.”
Since arriving in Australia in June 2022, Olga says she and her boys are happy.
“Although we had nothing when we arrived, no summer clothes and not even a washing machine or iron, we are enjoying Australia,” she says.
“Every weekend we do something, from art galleries to train museums, and swimming at South Bank.
“The boys are also enjoying learning to swim each Saturday at our local pool.
“I find Australians the most friendly and enjoyable people in the world.”
Olga said the BCE Work and Welcome program has given her a chance of a “new normal” and the opportunity to provide for her family.
“This is my first job in Australia, I am so happy to be here really, sometimes I cannot believe that it’s true,” she says.
“BCE is a cool place; the people here are amazing and so welcoming.
“It’s great to work in a team of such smart people and experience working within the Australian workforce.
“During my time at BCE I have had the chance to participate in team meetings, collaborate and come up with ideas, research our schools and record this data in Excel, and familiarised myself with the standards and obligations of a BCE employee.
“My mission while working at BCE is to help others, contribute, and make a difference.”
While at BCE, Olga will work across several BCE departments over three months, with the opportunity to work in teams including Strategy and Performance, Culture, Leadership and Capability, and Learning Services.
BCE Work and Welcome coordinator Enrique Ramirez says the program “changes lives.”
“The program gives refugees like Olga the opportunity to thrive in Australia,” he says.
“Because the participants work across a variety of departments, the program has a high number of successful outcomes – from gaining employment with BCE or other organisations, to continued study via BCE Scholarships or other initiatives.
“We are proud of what Olga and our other 16 Work and Welcome candidates have achieved in their time at BCE.
“The program is fully funded by BCE staff from offices and schools, who donate an amount out of their fortnightly pay to contribute.
“BCE is proud to have people and a culture that promotes Catholic social responsibility, and diversity, creating a better future for all.”