Marriage in Ukraine is still strongly defined by tradition and gender stereotypes. Ukrainians typically marry young. Speak to any young Ukrainian woman and the pressure from parents and other relatives ramps up exponentially the closer she gets to age 25 – the message is conveyed bluntly “it’s time you got married”.
Even if she is university educated, her chance at building a career will be cut short by the expectations of her becoming a wife and mother. For many young couples that means life can be a struggle. Reduced to single-incomes, the cost of living is such that for many, even home-ownership is often a pipe dream unless extended family steps in. Ukrainian domesticity is a long way from white picket fences.
“Marriage means you sacrifice some things for the sake of others. I quit drinking and smoking for the sake of my family. The biggest problem we faced was where to live. Fortunately I make enough to rent an apartment and provide for my wife who is still studying. We had nothing against living with our parents if we had to. Thanks to our parents and my own savings we recently bought an apartment on Kyiv’s outskirts. The apartment is good but the location is not. We are thinking about kids now and the only worry we have is that kids means giving up many things. My dad did it, and his father too, so I can handle it. It’s natural and you should have no doubts. We don’t use any social programmes for young families as, honestly, I don’t know if there are any and I don’t really trust them.”
“We rent an apartment now as we don’t want to live with our parents. We are not looking to buy an apartment as we may be leaving Ukraine. I have always been patriotic, but now looking at the situation and especially after giving birth to my son, it seems life here will be even worse in the future and that’s not what I want for my son. The other thing is the psychological aspect, when you have to be prepared at least for the first couple of years to sacrifice time for the child. I was afraid of the stress many couples undergo leading to them breaking up. I was also afraid of going to the clinic as I knew no one there and I was quite sure they would want a bribe of some sort. Kindergarten and school are the same – fees don’t guarantee your kids a proper education. I’ve never counted on support from the government. If there are social programmes to help young families, they are either corrupt or paid to ‘friends’.”
“The reason my husband and I don’t have kids yet is the absence of a family ‘nest’. When we got married five years ago we decided there was no way we were living with our parents and managed to resist doing so for a time. However reality soon hit home and we moved out of the flat we were renting and in with his parent’s. They along with my parents helped us a lot, including when we decided to buy an apartment. But we still had to take out a loan. I don’t trust the government. Here, either you count on yourself or emmigrate.”
“Not unlike many other young families in Ukraine we had two main issues: finances and accommodation. For the first three years we were living in a two-room apartment together with my husband’s grandmother. When I gave birth, she helped us a lot, by taking care of the child so I didn’t have to work and earn money for the family. However this year, as my child is three, we started thinking about our own apartment. We sold the old flat, took out credit, so as not to spend our parents’ savings and bought a bigger apartment. There is no chance a young family can buy a flat here without saving for years and taking out a loan. State support? What is that? I was looking for various programmes to help young families but found it was a corrupt system. There are long lists of people who’ve applied for support, with places in that line up for sale, various age limits, etc. So we decided not to waste our time. Our thanks though to the government for the 130hrv they were paying every month when I was on maternity leave. That was very helpful.”
“I don’t remember any problems after getting married except having to repair an old apartment and my mother-in-law. After we got married I moved in with my wife and her mother, hoping to buy an apartment in the future...for the mother-in-law. When a child appeared in our lives I started to spend more time with my family, but noticed no other changes. Do we use social programmes for young families? You’re joking right? What social programmes are you talking about? Just a one-time payout when the kid was born, that’s it. Maybe there are other programmes but you would spend too much time on figuring out what to do to get that support. I’d rather spend this time working in a real job earning real money.”
One-time Support for Young Mothers
This one-time payment is given to a mother right after the birth of a child. To get it one of the parents must apply to the Social Protection Department within 12 days following the child’s birth. For the first child the family receives a sum based on 30% of subsistence wages per month – the minimum a worker and their family can survive on, the second child – 60%, the third and subsequent children – 120%. The family gets 10 subsistence wages paid in a lump sum immediately with the rest paid monthly for one year for the first child, two years for the second, three for the third child, and so on. The Ukrainian subsistence wage is 1,032hrv.
Social Programmes for Ukrainian Families
After a long time spent trawling the Internet for social programmes for young families, the only information What’s On could find was the Resolution of Cabinet of Ministers 853, issued on 4 June 2003. In it the government promises to cover part of the interest accrued on the loan a young family takes to buy an apartment. The resolution defines “young family” as a wife and husband under 30, or a solo-parent family where a mother (or father) under 30 is bringing up an underage child. If your family correspond to the requirements, submission of all necessary papers to the Regional Fund of Youth Housing is required. Sounds easy, however the reality is there are so many applicants that you are more likely to reach the 30-year-old cut-off point than receive any financial assistance.
by Vadym Mishkoriz