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I’m leaving the country… What to take with me? 

A flower is not always able to blossom there where it springs up …

I’m leaving now…

There may be some moments in our life when we have to move to a new distant place. On the emerging horizon, expectedly or unexpectedly, there appears a non-touristic trip, full of emotions and attractions. It’s only the beginning of our new life in a foreign country. Circumstances force us to leave our cosy old house and build a nest for ourselves in an unknown new place. What to take and not to take on this trip to a new world? Let’s think about that.


Some say that it is only an illusion that you can do without many things. They advise you to take as much as possible, within reasonable financial limits. Starting a new life from scratch may be wonderful, but if you aren’t an oligarch or your grandmother, a first-wave immigrant, hasn’t left you a cosy house with soft sofas, the beginning of a new life abroad won’t be that easy; you won’t be able to afford to buy a TV set, mixer, shoes, shirts, pots and plates. You won’t be able to think about these things, busying yourself with much more important matters such as her holiness red tape, applying for residence permits, looking for a job and a place to live. You will have to work and learn a new language …

Buying everything necessary will obviously cost us a lot of money. But do we need everything right away? Migrating is like starting a business. It’s good to have a business plan. How much will you spend on furniture, cleaning products, cosmetics, food, toys and education aids for a child or two, kitchen utensils, computer, software or dishes? How much will you pay for rent, electricity, gas, water and sewage disposal?

Remember that real Europeans economise on everything! They count their money and count on themselves.

Besides, don’t forget about time. Time is money and you should save and take care of your money. You will have to learn to do so once you’ve crossed the threshold of Europe. In order not to search in new shops for new goods made by new producers, all unknown to you, you’d better take with you some things. I’m not talking about a bag of sugar or a barrel of oil. It would be reasonable, though, to count everything so as not to leave or throw away anything that you will have to buy on the spot right away.  Your furniture and electronic appliances may be solid and of good quality. It may be worthwhile to put them into a container and transport to the new homeland. There are lots of international transport companies. You should contact some of them, compare their offers, options and charges. For instance, the TNT company doesn’t provide clients with containers for transport. The client has to obtain them individually.  Let’s count: I had to pay about 92 Euros for transport of 10 kilograms (the actual weight) of my favourite books. It takes 4-5 days to transport them to Poland. You can obviously take fewer books with you, reducing the weight of the delivery and transport costs, but you will still have to bear considerable expenses. In the face of this, not all migrants decide to take a whole collection of books with them.  

What was my experience?

When I left Ukraine 13 years ago, stressed and in a hurry, I meant to stay away only for
a month or even less. I wanted to earn some money and go back. I wanted to improve the financial standing of my family, even if only slightly; to get out of an abyss of helplessness. There is a house with furniture, utensils and a garden; briefly speaking, you have a roof over your head and a sense of stability. But the roof over your head should have been renovated and walls should have been repainted a long time ago. It would be necessary to install
a plumbing system. But that is all beyond your reach, with unstable income, hardly sufficient to buy food and educational materials for two children. Finally, I decided to go to Poland, to Warsaw, located not far away from my homeland (550 km). With buses plying directly to Warsaw on a daily basis,  I had an opportunity to go directly from my house to the city and then to be transported back. When I found a job offer in Warsaw, I decided to go. The decision gave rise to various fears, anxieties, a sense of helplessness as well as hopes. I knew Polish well. I had been reading a Polish primer since my childhood; I had my favourite Polish songs and films; I knew nostalgic family memories; I had read hundreds of Polish magazines and newspapers. I knew Polish culture and customs quite well. I shouldn’t have felt strange. I have no problems communicating with Poles in shops or anywhere else.

As for material things, at the last moment I grabbed  Michel Quoist’s The Meaning of Success, Giennadij Malachow’s Detoxicate your organism, uncompleted knitwork, my mother’s old embroidered linen bed clothes, and will to work, earn money and not to waste my precious time.

I’m still leaving…

If we decide that we are not taking too many things with us, we can give some of them, for instance furniture, to your friends our people in need. You can also ask your friends to store some important things that won’t be necessary from the very beginning, for instance seasonal clothes, paintings or books. They will be gradually sending you those treasures in small packets. The best method is to pack everything right away and leave your friends a schedule of deliveries so as not to get spring wellington boots in the winter.

There’s yet another option: to organise a sale of domestic appliances, furniture and other things.  If there’s some time left to your departure, it is quite possible for you to turn all the things into money for which you will buy necessary staff instead of waiting for a container.

Anyway, remember to buy several Ukrainian keyboard stickers as well as a supply of indispensable medicines. Although Europe is close to us, medicines can differ not only in labels.

My friend who left Portugal told me that most of her clothes proved useless due to the different climate and clothing style. She bought new clothes in second-hand shops or at the markets. „As for kitchen utensils, we took only the most necessary things. But in fact we needn’t have taken all that staff with us because everything was available at an affordable price at the spot. We could have waited for the first payment of salary and bought necessary things only then. Cosmetics also proved unsuitable for the climatic conditions, so we had to get rid of them”.

Some Facebook friends who moved to Poland shared their impressions: "We took two suitcases, a rucksack with a laptop and a cage with our kitten. One suitcase was redundant, in fact; there’s no point taking bed clothes or pyjamas. We feared we would be short of money, but it turned out that it was more economical to buy things in Poland than to pay for the transport of luggage, including excessive luggage. We had no savings and my husband got his salary two weeks after we had arrived. We were buying things gradually”.

I think there’s no point ordering a container for our lumber. If you want to watch television, or listen to the music, you can do it on the Internet. As for books, there are plenty of e-books. Friendly advisers recommend not to start completing the formalities at the eleventh hour in order to avoid getting upset by being fined. You should consider disposing of unnecessary credit or pay cards.

Much depends on what type of family moves. A childless couple has it certainly easier; they can do without homemade food in the beginning. On the Internet, you will find numerous comments made by young women about how they moved abroad with a passport, cosmetics and underwear only. Families with children, on the contrary, have to think carefully about what to take with them; they have to think about some knick-knacks such as photo albums   sentimental keepsakes, gifts from your near and dear ones. Believers should remember to take some religious paraphernalia such as a prayer book, baptismal candle, holy water etc.

The fundamental task for migrants is to decide whether to start a new life in a new place, cutting off all ties with the old life; whether to somehow cherish your bond with the homeland, for instance staring at an embroidered towel hand-made by your mother, your grandmother’s sugar bowl; should you shed some tears of nostalgia over those accessories, so close to your heart?  Is there one solution to these problems? Actually no. Everyone has to decide on his or her own what should be kept and committed to memory,  and what is an unnecessary burden in the suitcase.
By two Ukrainian women
Written, down, commented by Marija Jakubowycz

Translation: Anna Orzechowska