Ukraine: strawberry visa-free, or how much you can earn on European fields

During a pandemic, Ukrainian tourists cannot get to rest in European countries. But the borders are open for seasonal workers, they are especially welcomed in Poland, says Strana.Ua.

Witold Boguta, head of the Polish National Association of Fruit and Vegetable Producers, says that at the peak of the season, farmers need about 100,000 workers. Local residents leave to work in Germany, where the salary is significantly higher, so the main hope is on Ukrainian citizens, who find it more difficult to get to Germany.

Active work on Polish fields will start at the end of May – the collection of cherries, strawberries and currants begins. To enter the country, Ukrainians need to obtain a work permit for a period of 9 months at a visa center and, before leaving, take a coronavirus test, the cost of which is subsequently reimbursed by many Polish employers. The terms of payment this year are somewhat lower, but the number of Ukrainians who want to earn money is not decreasing, but increasing.

Despite lockdowns, Ukrainians are still leading among migrants in Poland, and they are primarily recruited from those already in the country. According to the Polish Ministry of Labor, over the past year since the start of the pandemic, more than 300,000 Ukrainian citizens have managed to obtain long-term work permits (more than 70% of all permits). At the same time, during the same period, Polish employers filed applications for the desire to employ approximately 1.3 million Ukrainians (87% of the total for foreigners).

Some Ukrainian citizens are trying to move further to Europe, the rest are content with the salary offered by the Poles. Inna Myts, a specialist in employment abroad, says:

“In May, strawberry picking begins, they pay 2.5-3.5 zlotys for a basket (18-25 UAH), and not 4-5 zlotys (30-36 UAH), as before the pandemic.”

In addition to strawberries, workers in the fields expect radishes, tomatoes and cucumbers, in the gardens – raspberries, blueberries, cherries, currants. A typical job posting advert on the respective website reads:

“Seasonal work on strawberry and raspberry plantations on the outskirts of Warsaw (62 km). Accommodation is free, 2-4 people in a room. All amenities. In addition, bread and vegetables from the owner are free. Work 10-14 working hours a day (who can and wants to work) “.

Very often, the content of such an appeal does not correspond to reality – comfortable living turns out to be accommodation in a barn right on the field, the number of people in it exceeds 10-20, and the daily menu consists of a sandwich and soup. But, as they say, “who does not take risks” … Another ad taken arbitrarily:

“Collecting radishes, the average salary is from 700 to 2000 zlotys per week (5-15 thousand UAH). Payment from the production – 9 grosz a bunch. Responsibilities: collecting radishes, knitting bunches, folding them into boxes. Requirements: desire to work, biometrics or a visa, at least 2 months “.

Experts warn about possible deception, as intermediaries are often in high demand among Ukrainians for work in neighboring Poland. In addition, upon arrival, the migrant workers face unexpected competition from the Poles, who are returning home from European countries due to the pandemic.

Polish farmers complain that half of their harvest will rot if the Ukrainians do not return, and they ask customs officers to be more loyal to workers, and Polish officials to issue work permits more quickly. It is possible not to wait for a work permit, having entered with a biometric passport, but this document will still be necessary, experts say, and, in particular, the representative of the Lviv employment agency Maria Furdak:

“The employer is still obliged to register with the county office a statement of intent to employ a foreigner and obtain permission from the Polish authorities. But everything is so smooth only in theory. In practice, the Polish border guards will have to prove that you are definitely legalizing. to Poland of a person who goes to negotiations with an employer without documents, that’s how it goes. “

In addition, as the representative of the Warsaw employment agency Tomasz Sawicki says, more and more Ukrainians are striving to travel through Poland to richer European countries:

“For fictitious registration, Ukrainians pay Polish firms about $ 180. For this amount, some companies agree to submit to the employment center a declaration that they agree to hire a foreigner. This trick was” missed “by the Polish authorities and want to complicate the procedure for issuing work visas.”

As the Polish Ministry of Labor found out, many Ukrainians are cunning: they get a work permit and, bypassing the declared place of work, go to other countries of the Schengen zone.

And this, as Savitsky emphasizes, is a gross violation of the law:

“For such” services “companies are fined about $ 10,000, and Ukrainians can be deported. The Migration Service will now check firms more often.”

Andriy Yarmak, economist at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Technical Cooperation Department, talks about the harvest disaster in Poland and a possible alternative to the Ukrainians in the form of the Vietnamese:

“There are not enough workers in Poland. They do not have time to harvest the crops on time. And the production of berries such as raspberries and strawberries is already starting to decline precisely because it is difficult to find the right number of workers. The situation was similar for raspberries and strawberries.

This year, a record harvest is expected in Poland, which there is no one to harvest. Local gardeners are looking for an alternative to the labor force from Ukraine, but cannot find it. They thought to call the Vietnamese, who are famous for their ability to work, but, having calculated, they realized that they would be much more expensive than the Ukrainians: the road to Poland from Vietnam is not cheap.

For the ears of Ukrainians, these discussions are very often unpleasant, because they sometimes look like comparing the productive qualities of animals. When Polish gardeners say that Ukrainians are taller, stronger, harder and more resilient than workers from other countries, you understand why our people are looking for alternatives to Poland for seasonal employment. “

After the outbreak of hostilities in the Donbass, the flow of Ukrainians leaving to work in Poland has grown significantly. Although now some people choose Sweden as their destination or do their usual business at home, in Ukraine. Ermak says:

“In Ukraine, the growth of berry production has begun. On picking raspberries in Ukraine, you can earn up to 6-8 thousand hryvnias per month. At the same time, you can grow raspberries on your own. You can earn up to 20-25 thousand hryvnias of net profit per season only on 10 acres. Even one person can cope with such an area.Accordingly, a family can grow up to 1 hectare of raspberries, receiving 200 or more thousand hryvnias of net profit per season, which makes growing raspberries more profitable than working for a master.

Moreover, the work in Poland is no longer what it was before. Cases when migrant workers are deceived by their own compatriots, who rent plantations from Poles, have become more frequent. Entrepreneur Yevgeny Chernyak writes on Facebook:

“Several enterprising Ukrainians decided to rent strawberry fields from the Poles. Their first decision was to reduce the salaries of Ukrainians who work for Ukrainians in Poland. Tenants at a loss. A consumer without a product. A great story that there are businessmen who, when touched, even strawberries turn to shit. “

And the Ukrainians themselves, who are forced to leave their native country in search of earnings, consider picking berries in Poland to be slave labor for a pittance. One of the migrant workers from Ivano-Frankivsk, Iryna Pogrebnyak, says:

“It is easy to pick strawberries only at first glance. It is quite exhausting work, from 5-6 in the morning until late in the evening, you have to choose a large berry. For 12-14 hours you are constantly on your knees, the sun is baking. Your knees are bloody, your back hurts. easier and pay more for it. If you have a weak back or knee joints, you will not be able to work at all. Troubles happen: the owner rejects some of the berries, and it happens that the collected baskets are stolen and handed over by other pickers. “

Another, Oksana Senyshin, echoes her:

“You can die for the number of baskets you have to collect. Let’s go with my husband, so he was already laying down to collect. A week later we returned home – we didn’t even work on the road. May God save us from such earnings.”

However, there are also many who are looking forward to the start of the strawberry season – after all, in Ukraine it is impossible to earn even what the Poles pay for working in the fields. Lviv woman Oksana Fedorchuk says:

“I am a teacher by education, for some time I went to Poland to pick berries in the summer. Then I saved up money and started a small business in Ukraine, opened a cafe. about 100 thousand hryvnia, I quickly collect. Of course, to the detriment of health, but what to do? You have to pay bills, feed and clothe the children. We are going with my husband, he also lost his job in Ukraine. “

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