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The World We Share: Meet Valeriia

The World We Share: Meet Valeriia

January 25, 2024 4 min read

 At 17, Valeriia decided to leave her hometown in Ukraine to pursue a university degree in Italy. In some ways, the decision was easy. She’d be reuniting with her mom who had left for Italy after the challenging post-USSR 90s in search of better job opportunities to support her family. On the other hand, she’d be leaving behind the only life she had ever known. 

“In Ukraine I had my whole life, my friends, my family. Even though it was the life of a child, it was all I knew. I was afraid because I didn’t know what I was going to do. I knew I wanted to go to university, but everything was up in the air,” Valeriia shared. “Would I get accepted? Would my paperwork get approved? There were a lot of doubts surrounding my move while my friends were already heading to the big cities in Ukraine for school.” 

Studying and working in Italy 

At the time, it was disheartening to see her friends continue to build their lives together while she was starting from scratch. Even after making her decision, Valeriia went back to Ukraine several times before settling on pursuing a Political Science degree in Italy. Overtime, Valeriia learned her new country’s language and even worked as an Italian teacher for Ukrainian migrants and refugees.  

“Migration, at least in my experience, is always bittersweet. A lot of aspects can be intimidating at first, even if you can visualize the benefits you might reap in the future. But in the end, it’s very satisfying to look back on a leap of faith and realize that it’s been worthwhile and that it’s led to a lot of happiness,” said Valeriia. 

Settling in Spain 

Now that she was out in the world, Valeriia wanted to see a whole lot more. Throughout her studies, she also spent time in Spain and the United States, though it was the former that won her over. In Madrid, she had found what she had been looking for. 

“There’s a bigger Ukrainian community in Italy than there is in Spain. Here, I’ve stayed close to the Ukrainian community, but I’ve also focused on making friends from all over the world, even if you’re always drawn to people from your same culture and background,” shared Valeriia. 

Migrating to Spain was a lot easier than migrating to Italy as a teenager. Now, Valeriia was armed with two degrees, an extra language, and the know-how to navigate bureaucracy. She quickly landed a role at Ria, a company she fondly recognized while browsing through job postings.  

Staying connected to Ukraine 

For years, Valeriia’s mom had been using Ria to send money back to her grandparents or to make direct deposits to her Ukrainian bank account. To this day, both Valeriia and her mom still use Ria to send money to their family back home. 

Looking back, Valeriia finds she’s picked up a few curious habits to stay in touch with her culture. “I watch things like Netflix and HBO in English or Spanish to practice, but for some reason I always watch YouTube videos and podcasts in Ukrainian. I think it’s easier for me to retain information in my mother tongue. I’ve also started re-reading books by Ukrainian authors I read in school. And food, of course. Though my boyfriend enjoys other Ukrainian dishes such as Golubtsi, I often cook Borscht at home,” she said. 

While the decision to leave Ukraine was difficult, Valeriia knows she made the right choice for herself. “As the years go by, you feel like you lose that connection with old friends and your old life. But there’s so many things you gain. In my case, I have my degrees, the two languages I learned, and a bunch of experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything. And the truth is life goes on for everyone, my old friends each went their own way. Some of them even have kids now. When you’re young, you worry about being left out or losing connections, but as an adult you realize that life always gets in the way, and the important thing is to treasure the memories.” 

If you’re living abroad like Valeriia and want to send money to your loved ones back home, you can visit any of our locations or download the Ria Money Transfer app to get started. 

About the author

Gabrielle van Welie

Gabrielle van Welie is Ria's Global Content Manager. Originally from Dominican Republic, she specializes in the cultural impact of remittances and migration across the globe.

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