From dance teacher to manager of the Ukrainescht Haus

Iurii Skobel welcomes us to the Ukrainescht Haus as if it were his own home. Starting with offering a cup of coffee and a tour of the owner. The living room, with its table football area. A space to store the many gifts. The kitchen, which overlooks the long garden. In the corner a barbecue that has not yet been used. It will not be long. Upstairs are several play and study rooms. A bathroom. And Iurii Skobel’s office, where he checks his emails.

More than 3,000 Ukrainian refugees have reached Luxembourg since the start of the war. There were 2,900 who had applied for international protection a month ago. Temporary protection giving them free access to the Luxembourg labor market. Adem has no figures on the number of Ukrainians who have already found work in the Grand Duchy. At least Iurii Skobel is part of it.

A long trip

The 46-year-old has been working since 1er April as manager of the Ukrainescht Haus in Strassen. A different position than the one he held in Ukraine. “I was a dance teacher in college,” he says. Before continuing: “I left on the first day of the war”.

Rockets hit the city of Ivano-Frankivsk, where he lives, in the west of the country. “I saw the fear in my children’s eyes”. He therefore decides to go to Poland with his family – a friend offers to accommodate them. Once at the border, after having driven 250 kilometers, he is asked to turn around: he could be mobilized for the war. He then leaves the car keys to his wife and goes home.

“The next day I read in the papers that a change was coming and that if we had three children, we could go abroad. I immediately called my son to contact the military.” Her family had just spent the night in the car and were still stuck behind everyone else at the border. The soldiers confirm. “In half an hour I found a means of transport to get to my family”.

The door of the Ukrainescht Haus is wide open on weekdays and on Saturdays. Inside, Iurii Skobel organizes all kinds of activities.

(Photo: Matic Zorman/Modern House)

On February 26, the father, mother and their three children arrived in Poland. A week later, after a long bus ride, they are in Luxembourg. “I was a volunteer at humanitarian aid posts in Poland. Volunteers living in Luxembourg had come to deliver products and found families ready to receive Ukrainian refugees. We came back with them.” Zakhar, the eldest, remained in Poland, where he is studying to become a chef.

Landed a job without any problems

It has therefore been a month and a half since Iurii Skobel and his wife Natalia, their six-year-old daughter Maria and their eleven-year-old son Ostad live with Etienne and Bernadette. “A family of retirees, very friendly. They see my children as grandparents,” laughs their father.

Iurii Skobel had no trouble finding a new job in Luxembourg. Less than two days after his arrival, he was contacted directly by the mayor. Who offered him to manage the Ukrainescht Haus. Initially on a voluntary basis. Until he signed an employment contract for a period of five months as an employee of the Center for Initiative and Local Management (CIGL). His only colleague is an employee of the municipality of Strassen.

The most important thing is that my children are safe.

Iurii Skobel

Iurii Skobel

“I prepare projects every day. Activities for the little ones (trips to the zoo, painting), yoga or English lessons for adults. I welcome the Ukrainians who arrive, I help the children. I receive when someone brings food or clothes,” he summarizes. This is from 9 am to 4.30 pm on weekdays and on Saturdays from 10 am to 3 pm. Every day between 15 and 20 people come to the Ukrainescht Haus.

Originally, the municipality of Strassen had bought the house at 48 rue des Romains to turn it into a youth space. It is a five minute walk from Etienne and Bernadette’s.

Folk dance and Easter traditions

After the five months of CDD, it is still unclear for Iurii Skobel. Everything will depend on how the situation in Ukraine develops. His wife, who worked as a manager of a cultural center before the war, has now registered with Adem. Their children have to go to school in Strassen after the Easter holidays. Today Iurii Skobel feels “good” in Luxembourg. “The most important thing is that my children are safe.”

He maintains regular contact with his relatives in Ukraine. But also with his students, to whom he teaches several times a week via Zoom. Will he offer dance lessons at the Ukrainescht Haus? “Yes, I hope so,” he replies with stars in his eyes, thinking about the profession for which he studied at the Rivne Cultural Institute. Before teaching choreography at the university, he taught ballet and folk dance at a specialized school.

But today’s lesson at the Ukrainian house in Strassen will focus on Luxembourg’s Easter traditions. Little by little, around 10 a.m., the house fills up with parents and their children. Iurii’s daughter, Maria, also arrives. All come to attend the Peckvillercher workshop. Another folklore.

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