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Ukrainian refugee engineer finds her niche

1 June 20230 comments

Ukrainian refugee and telecoms engineer Nataliia Chilikina has been able to resume her career in Australia after having to flee her home as the Russians attacked.

Nataliia fled Kharkiv in February 2021 as the city came under heavy bombardment.

She is now working as a Project Coordinator with Ventia, a large essential infrastructure services provider operating in Australia and New Zealand, as part of the firm’s NBN team.

“We all thought the war would be over in a week. We thought the politicians would come to some agreement and the fighting would stop,” she said.

“But after about five days the war became much wider and I decided to leave. The trains were still working so I left for Poland.

“After the war had started, thousands of people moved out of the country. Our city Kharkiv is very close to the border, so it was bombarded every day and night.

“I went with my girlfriend and friends who were all part of our Jehovah’s Witness church.

“So for me it was not as difficult as for others because I am part of an international community through the church and we were supported in Poland by other members.

“I spent a week with one church family and then another two weeks with another family and then I came to Australia.

“I learned English in Ukraine but, strangely, I think my language is going backwards since I came here because my job involves mostly numbers and technical language.

“My main problem is accommodation. At the moment I am couch surfing, living with an Australian family I met through the Ukrainian community,’ Nataliia said.

“I still miss home. I dream of it a lot. But I have my church and friends here. We go for lunch and dinner and we have been exploring Melbourne,” she said.

Nataliia had worked for 18 years on designing telecommunications towers and infrastructure installations, and was proud of her role in the rollout of mobile telecommunication base stations across the region.

But she was uncertain about resuming her professional career in Australia.

On arriving in Melbourne, Natalia had an opportunity to learn a new skill and completed Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping at RMIT.

“I thought it would be hard to work in the telecommunication industry in Melbourne because of the different standards and rules,” she said.

“But one of my friends sent me information about the organisation CareerSeekers, so I sent my CV to them and soon they contacted me and said they have an interesting role for me that is almost in the same industry as I worked in Ukraine.

“Actually, their mission is to find an internships and then ongoing positions for refugees and asylum seekers according to their professional experience in their country of origin. 

“So I started to work in Ventia as Project coordinator. This is what I am dealing with – pits, ducts, and blockages.

“There are a lot of new words, such as mandrel, hauling, splicing, trench, boring, high pressure flush, pipe proving, and compaction. Also among the new things I have learned are the different features in Excel, such as filter, comparing, cut or add symbols in cells, rename of folders, and the website Novus, with work orders and completed tasks.

“Compared to my previous workspace, Ventia has an open-space office with booking system of desks, two screens at each desk, free coffee, milk and cornflakes for breakfast, pizza and sandwiches, team-building meetings and a gym.”

Nataliia said she was settling well into her new job.

“My new team is very supportive – they all have their characters and accents, and intonation from their native language that I love very much,” she said.

“My colleagues helped me a lot to learn new things, they’ve been answering my questions, and I really feel a part of a big family at Ventia,” Nataliia said.