Evgeni arrived in Belgium in September of 2014 following the military conflict in Ukraine. He applied for international protection in Belgium with plans to quickly organize family reunification for his wife and son who remained in Ukraine.
Shortly after he applied for international protection, Evgeni was placed in accommodation in Bruges where he waited for a few months to know the outcome of his asylum application. He earns some money by playing music with a few friends on the street. He has played the guitar since he was a child and he used his basic musical knowledge to teach himself how to play other instruments as well.
Although Evgeni has yet to receive a reply, he decided to return to Ukraine at the end of December in 2014. “He found out from various sources that family reunification was not possible for Western Ukrainians because of the then ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine,” says Thomas, a Caritas worker who followed his case. “That is what made him decide to return to his country.” Thus he went to the CAW in Bruges to begin a voluntary return procedure.
With our support, Evgeni also obtained reintegration support which provided him with a small budget that Evengi used to buy several musical instruments and performed in local jazz clubs for a fee. Evgeni bought among other instruments a Conga [a hand drum often used in jazz], different harmonicas and a folk guitar.
“During a control visit in early December of 2015, Evgeni explained how he and his friend would play music in a jazz café to earn money. They would regularly give concerts in his neighborhood of Uzhgorod but also in Lviv. During the summer months, the downtown square becomes lively and it vibrates with the sound of their music,” explains Tomas. “Music has become Evgeni’s main source of income, which allows him to support his family and renovate his home. Since then, he has recorded a CD with his friend and sells it during his performances which brings him extra income.”
“While Evgeni is well-composed and satisfied with his situation, he was not as optimistic about Ukraine’s future prospects,” Thomas adds. “The current financial crisis has tripled prices and unemployment has skyrocketed. Evgeni’s son is taking courses in computer science at the University of Uzhgorod and hopes to come to Belgium for work and earn a better salary.”