Stories

Supporting Displaced Ukrainians in Poland

Here's how JPMorgan Chase worked with a global social impact organization to offer stability and employment opportunities for Ukrainian refugees.

March 18, 2024

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, some analysts predicted a swift end. But the Ukrainian people have put up a fierce fight, and as the conflict has entered its third year, the uncertainty of its outcome has far-reaching consequences for those who call Ukraine home.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the war has displaced more than 6.4 million Ukrainian refugees globally, with over 1.6 million seeking asylum in Poland. Two of those refugees, Nataliia Lymar and Iryna Paduchak, are mothers from Kyiv. When the war started, they thought of their kids first.

“We couldn’t delay even one day, so we took our documents and our kids, and we left,” recalls Paduchak, who worked as a financial analyst before the invasion.

Lymar and Paduchak found safety for their families in Poland, but still faced a difficult question: How would they support themselves?

“It’s like you’re in the middle of nowhere,” says Lymar, a project manager. “You’ve left your home, lost your job, and you’re in another country just trying to keep your kids safe.”

The language barrier was another hurdle. “Despite having the education and experience, I couldn’t even apply for many positions because I didn’t speak Polish,” Paduchak says.

Lymar and Paduchak discovered an opportunity that would provide the stability and support they needed. JPMorgan Chase had launched a work and training program for people just like them. No banking or finance experience was required, nor did applicants need to speak Polish. The company would provide training, housing support, English courses, childcare, and more.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Lymar says. “Everything I needed was already planned for in this program.”

A Compassionate Partnership

At the beginning of the war, JPMorgan Chase employees in Warsaw started talking among themselves about doing something to augment the humanitarian contributions the company was already making. According to Karolina Józwik, Vice President in the Talent and Culture Team in Warsaw, the staff wanted to create a work and training program that would provide for immediate needs and have long-lasting benefits for refugees.

“Our program participants didn’t want charity,” Józwik explains. “They wanted to be team members, but we knew parents wouldn’t be able to focus on anything until they knew their kids were safe.”

 

Nataliia Lymar, Karolina Józwik and Iryna Paduchak. Photo by Wladyslaw Sawicki.

 

While JPMorgan Chase's Warsaw staff wanted to help Ukraine's refugees, they knew they couldn’t do it alone. To develop the program, they collaborated with INCO, an international organization building opportunities for refugees and underserved communities. INCO had an existing relationship with JPMorgan Chase.

“When we connected with the corporate side in Warsaw, JPMorgan Chase's team knew they wanted to hire and train people, how many people that could be, and how much support those people would need. I was impressed,” recalls Van Anh Dam, director of INCO Academy International.

INCO provided JPMorgan Chase with insight into potential challenges, as well as direct support for the participants. This included resources to help them acclimate to life in a new city, peer-to-peer support sessions and team-building activities.

“Even if you know what refugees need, you need to know how to provide that support accessibly, how to make it efficient, scalable, and individualized,” Van Anh says.

INCO also provided assistance on the ground, helping JPMorgan Chase secure housing in Warsaw’s very competitive market, offering psychological support for warzone refugees, and finding schools for children. It also addressed more granular challenges, such as providing language translation and on-site personnel assistance.

A Route to Stability

For the first cohort, program managers chose 50 participants from approximately 2,000 applicants. For a full year, participants worked in the Warsaw offices while attending workshops, presentations, training courses, and peer-to-peer support forums, many of which were designed and conducted by JPMorgan Chase's staff.

At the program’s conclusion, participants had the opportunity to apply for full-time positions in the company. While those positions were open to all, the program helped the participants by providing professional development opportunities, which would be useful as they searched for other job opportunities at JPMorgan Chase.

Out of the first 50 participants, 44 secured full-time employment. Having completed her year in training, Lymar took a Corporate Controller position in Corporate Finance Team, which was the team she trained with. As for Paduchak, she is in the second cohort of 42 participants, and is considering full-time employment later this year. 

A Firmer Foothold in Poland

Despite the challenges of navigating a difficult, evolving situation, the Warsaw work and training program is a success, and it has had an outsized effect.

“We have these 92 people with a new foundation that changes everything in their lives,” Van Anh says. “Those we empower become role models and guides for other Ukrainians, including their children, parents, and others. This program has a ripple effect.”

Józwik acknowledges that, even though the participants want to stay at JPMorgan Chase, many of the refugees wish to return to Ukraine when the war is over. For now, however, the participants can only hope for the restoration of peace.

“We’re still very connected to Ukraine,” Lymar says. “But my kids know who helped them when they needed it. This program, for me, is light in a dark tunnel. I feel like I’ve started to live again.”

Calling the program “unique,” Van Anh says INCO has gathered learnings from it and shared them across other organizations. She believes the results of the Warsaw work and training program will aid INCO’s refugee support efforts in the future.

“I don’t know what life will be like in one year, but several months ago, I didn’t know what tomorrow would be like,” Paduchak says. “Now, I have a job and stability, and that’s been everything."