Marta arrived in Australia 11 months ago with nothing but her daughter and a suitcase – now she has been awarded an opportunity to further her incredible work advocating for her fellow displaced Ukrainians in Australia.
A successful project manager across a 15-year career in Europe, Marta’s life was turned upside-down by a call from a friend at 5am on February 24, 2022 at her home in Kyiv, Ukraine.
“She told me Kyiv airport had been bombed several minutes ago and war had started. It was a shock for me, and my brain rejected the information, but I checked CNN News and the first article said Russia had officially started the military invasion of Ukraine,” Marta recalls.
“I ran to my daughter’s room to wake her up and tell her we had to leave immediately. Half an hour later we packed up all our life, grabbed our documents, locked our apartment, and left for somewhere – we did not know where.
“In two hours, our residential area was surrounded by tanks and all our neighbours were trapped. Unfortunately, many of them I will never see again.”
Marta drove 1,000 kilometres that day, passing tanks and helicopters on their way to the Polish border, where they queued with thousands of other refugees for three days and nights before finally reaching safety.
She put her project management skills to use immediately, forming a team with her colleagues at Mars Incorporated in Germany to help rescue internally displaced people in Ukraine.
But after a few months it came time to think about her own future, and the future of her daughter Christina. Marta turned down a job offer in Belgium due to the language barrier for Christina, opting instead to move across the globe and join her sister in Australia on a three-year humanitarian visa.
Marta said her successful career was built on networking, and with no contacts in Australia she had to start from scratch.
She started by joining rallies and getting involved with the Ukrainian-Australian community, and soon landed a project manager role with the Ukrainian Council of NSW helping her fellow newly arrived migrants.
I’m used to being busy and useful, and for me it’s a great honour to be useful for people in need.
“People might think they’re ‘just refugees’, but for me, it’s really brave. Women with kids who found a strength in themself to pack all their life into one bag and travel somewhere they’ve never been before.
“They have big potential, but they still need a bit of help. And I feel I have the energy, and the know-how, and I'm very good at communication with people and networking, so I can help them. I feel that power to help those people.”
While learning on the job, Marta felt she needed to take her leadership skills to the next level – enter the Anstice MBA Scholarship for Community Leadership, which assists emerging leaders in community organisations acquire world-class business and management skills.
Director of the MBA program, Professor Guy Ford, congratulated Marta on being awarded the scholarship.
“We are thrilled to welcome such an inspiring and experienced leader to this cohort,” Professor Ford said.
“We trust that the MBA will assist Marta in the vital work she is doing to help those displaced by war.”
Marta believes the course will equip her in setting the strategy and direction for the Ukrainian Council of NSW’s humanitarian mission over the coming years, and in the long term, hopefully to help rebuild her war-torn nation as millions of fellow refugees seek to return home.
Despite all she has suffered over the past 12 months, and uncertainty over her future, Marta remains grateful for her opportunities in Australia.
“When you receive, you have to give. Giving makes me fulfilled and satisfied and makes life meaningful.
“In one year, my network has grown significantly and I have a lot of connections in government ministries and different charity organisations. So, Australia for me, it's really a country of opportunities. And all Australians are so welcoming. Nothing is impossible in this country.”