From Displacement to Deputy: Julia's Journey Inspiring European Migrant Women

Photos and text by Olena Soinikova

Do you want to have a say in the future of Europe? Do you care about the issues that affect you and your community? Do you want to make a difference for yourself and others?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should vote in the European elections from 6 to 9 June 2024. This is your opportunity to choose who represents you in the European Parliament, the institution that passes laws that shape our lives.

The European Parliament also represents the diversity of Europe, including migrant women. Migrant women are an important part of our society, but they often face barriers and discrimination in political participation. That’s why we need to empower them and make their voices heard.

It is important to note that women’s political participation is a key aspect of democracy.
In Greece, the European Parliament elections will take place on 9 June 2024. Greece has a significant migrant population, including women. However, specific statistics on migrant women in Greece participating in the country’s political life are not always available. At the same time, there are certain problems in the field of migration in Greece. For example, activists who seek respect for the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants are currently under intense pressure. Such policies have a “stifling effect” on Greek civil society.

My project serves as a testament to the resilience and compassion of Julia, a Ukrainian migrant woman who has become a beacon of hope for countless others residing in Greece. Through her establishment of the humanitarian center Vari, Julia has significantly impacted the lives of Ukrainian refugees displaced by the 2022 Russian invasion. As her influence expands, she receives an unexpected invitation to participate in local elections in Greece, symbolizing the empowerment of migrant voices in shaping Europe’s future. This project sheds light not only on Julia’s individual journey but also on the collective strength of migrant women whose stories often remain unheard.

In the heart of Greece, Julia’s story unfolds as a captivating narrative of resilience and compassion. Having migrated from Ukraine over two decades ago, she stands as a beacon of hope for those shattered by conflict and displacement. As the founder of the Vari Humanitarian Center, Julia has dedicated herself to provide critical support to Ukrainian refugees, serving as a lifeline in their darkest hours. Her collaboration with the local mayor’s office underscores her commitment to enrich the fabric of community life and safeguard the rights of migrants.

Julia’s impact extends beyond the confines of her center, as she embraces political activism with unwavering dedication. An invitation to participate in local elections in Greece and the prospect of representing the country in the European Parliament mark a pivotal moment in her journey. Through her tireless advocacy, Julia amplifies the voices of migrants, bridging the gap between humanitarian efforts and political engagement.

By using documentary photography and photovoice as a research method to create my project, I aimed to illuminate Julia’s journey, capturing the essence of her struggles, triumphs, and aspirations. In celebrating her resilience and unwavering spirit, we reaffirm our commitment by supporting and empowering one another, as well as creating a brighter future for generations to come.

As Julia’s journey unfolds, her potential representation in the European Parliament signifies more than just a political milestone—it’s a beacon of hope for migrant women everywhere. When you vote, you choose the Members of the European Parliament, who will work tirelessly on behalf of migrant women, advocating for issues like refugee rights, cultural preservation, and community integration. These Members make decisions that directly impact your daily life, through policies that promote empathy, compassion, and solidarity across borders.

Your vote matters. It’s your voice, your power to shape the future. By casting your vote, you have a say in the direction of our shared journey.

So, when the time comes, remember Julia’s story. Remember the resilience, the compassion, and the unwavering commitment to making a difference. And remember, your vote has the power to transform lives, uplift communities, and shape a brighter tomorrow for us all.