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Ukrainians are starting new lives in safer parts of the country

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The U.N.'s International Organization for Migration says more than 10 million Ukrainians have fled their homes in eight months of war. Many fled the country, but the majority have relocated to calmer areas within Ukraine. And as NPR's Nathan Rott reports, many are now struggling to make ends meet.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Home for the Korchevsky family used to be a two-story house in Mariupol with a patio and garage a short drive from the sea. Now, the family of four lives in what looks like a small shipping container placed among others in a Lviv city park. Hanna Korchevsky leans against the two sets of bunk beds that take up a third of their floor space and makes coffee on a short table her husband built from scrap wood. Her 14-year-old son, Ulysses, plays a video game on a desktop computer that his older brother typically uses for school and work.

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You're good.

ULYSSES: Maybe.

ROTT: The Korchevskys are among the 6.2 million Ukrainians who have relocated to a new part of the country. They're grateful to have this home, even if it means sharing a small room with two teenage boys and using a communal bathroom and kitchen with other families. But they're also stuck.

VOLODYMYR: (Speaking Ukrainian).

ROTT: Volodymyr, the father of the family, explains he can't find work. He made a career in Mariupol's steel plants before fleeing.

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VOLODYMYR: I graduated in 1994 - Metallurgical Institute of Mariupol.

ROTT: But western Ukraine doesn't have as much heavy industry. His wife, Hanna, who was an elementary teacher in Mariupol, has found part-time work. So has his older son. I ask if they both earn enough for the family to maybe move into a bigger house or apartment.

VOLODYMYR: (Speaking Ukrainian).

ROTT: "No," he says. "My wife works here in this city park picking up garbage, and you know how little that pays."

Inflation has sent food prices soaring in Ukraine. And rent in the western part of the country in particular has shot up too because of all the new arrivals.

VOLODYMYR: (Speaking Ukrainian).

ROTT: "Even if Mariupol was liberated," he says, "my house was bombed. It only has three walls."

A survey by the International Organization for Migration in July found that 6% of Ukraine's internally displaced people also lost their jobs. The unemployment rate in the country is higher than 30%. At the unemployment center in Lviv, job listings are posted to a series of boards in the lobby. Our producer, Kateryna Malofieieva, reads what's available.

KATERYNA MALOFIEIEVA, BYLINE: A sewer - 7,000 hryvnias. It's $150 per month. This is electro-gas welder - 12,000, which is $300 per month.

ROTT: Rent for a single-bedroom apartment in Lviv, a local realtor says, is about $270 per month.

OLEH RISNY: So it's a difficult situation for these people.

ROTT: Oleh Risny is the unemployment center's director. He says it's hard even for his own staff. The Lviv region unemployment office has just laid off 40% of its own workers.

RISNY: Because they have no money. Not enough money for our system.

ROTT: Instead, he says, money is being reallocated for defense purposes. The National Bank of Ukraine, which compiles economic statistics, did not respond to requests for comment about social welfare spending. But it's clear the system is reeling. In June, the government announced that people must take work offered by unemployment offices like this, saying everyone must either fight to defend the country or work for victory.

RISNY: When people didn't want to take this job, we didn't pay unemployment benefits.

ROTT: That's the situation Helen Sentischeva is facing. She moved to live with her husband and 8-year-old daughter from Kharkiv after weeks of constant bombing and shelling.

HELEN SENTISCHEVA: I'm here just because my child, because I don't want to hear crying, because she's afraid to die. A girl her age isn't supposed to be saying such things. She was crying, asking for help. What help? I couldn't help her because I couldn't help myself.

ROTT: Sentischeva lost her job in sales at a small manufacturer when it closed because she says half of its staff was mobilized to fight in the war. The unemployment center here has offered her a job as a college professor based off her college degrees, a job she's never done and doesn't feel fit for and a job, she says, that won't pay her enough to live in Lviv.

SENTISCHEVA: It's not enough, of course. It's not enough for three people.

ROTT: But like many others, she's not sure what else to do. Bills, even in war, still need to be paid.

Nathan Rott, NPR News, Lviv. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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