AMCHAM: Please tell our Newsletter readers how many people attended the course taught this past weekend?
Bakhtiyar Mammadov & Sabina Mammadova: We are delighted to have hosted 60 Ukrainian passport holders who newly arrived in Luxembourg (actually, there were 62 attendees, if you remember, the two small children, a girl of 4 years old and a boy of 18 months who came with their two parents!). The youngest course participant was a baby (1.5 years).
What is the purpose of the course? What were the details of the course content?
The course aims to help newly arrived Ukrainians integrate into Luxembourg society in a short period of time. The course covers such topics as the history and geography of Luxembourg, population, state languages and how to learn them, political system, how to find a job, taxation, renting and buying a home, how to register a car and change a driver’s license, find the school, kindergarten, educational institution, how to start a business, receiving a business license, opening a bank account, medical care, waste sorting, environmental, Luxembourg incentives when using electric cars and getting bicycles, Luxembourg initiatives to become a best EU country and its participation as a founding father of EU, and so on. Specific emphasis was given to how Luxembourg holds a unique position in international history, economics, and politics. At the start of the course, Paul Schonenberg, AMCHAM Chairman, warmly welcomed course participants and spoke about Luxembourg and the role of AMCHAM as an organization.
Where was the course held, and who were the partners?
While the idea to offer this course to our Ukrainian new arrivals was developed by AMCHAM, it could not have happened without a partnership between AMCHAM and other generously supporting partners. Our most sincere thanks go to Carlo Thelen and his team at the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce, who generously provided a large conference room at no cost all day on Saturday to host this project. Each guest attendee enjoyed a simple but very nice lunch with big sandwiches of ham and cheese or Mozzarella and vegetables accompanied by a bottle of water and a giant cookie for dessert generously sponsored by Spuerkeess Bank, the Automobile Club of Luxembourg, and the Luxembourg Times. Each attendee also received an Amcham Member Benefit club card entitling them to a free one-year membership in AMCHAM and price discounts at the 250 merchants participating in the MBC program. Both the ACL and the Luxembourg times gave vouchers and gift bags offering free digital magazine subscriptions or other free information access and other small useful gifts. AMCHAM likewise brought copies and allowed participants to access their 450-page Doing Business in Luxembourg books.
What language was this course taught in?
The course was taught in Russian as this is a widely spoken language among Ukrainians. Many of the attendees spoke some level of English, but Russian was a much more comfortable language for them to use, and they expressed great appreciation for having this information in a way that was easy to understand.
What is the background of this course?
Ten years ago, AMCHAM developed this course under its initiative to target new arrivals into Luxembourg with the immediate information they need to help them on their first days of integration. The idea was to keep it short and practical. Hence a 5-hour course that could be taught on a Saturday. Over the years, AMCHAM has continually updated this course material and developed the capability to teach this course in English, Portuguese, and Russian. No classes were conducted during the Covid crisis, so naturally, it was great to re-start this initiative.
Why was this course taught now?
The idea to update this course has been in discussion within the AMCHAM TOOLS FOR LUXEMBOURG committee for some time, focusing on how best to cost-effectively provide this information to those in need either by making physical courses or turning this into a digital video presentation. With the arrival of the Ukrainian displaced persons, AMCHAM did not see that anyone else was pulling together such activity to support the newly arrived Ukrainians and decided to act. AMCHAM has been delighted to have its present partners’ generous and kind support and believes the product provided has given valuable help to a target population needing this support.
What has been the reaction of the attendees?
The attendees were very satisfied and glad that they could clarify many bureaucratic and everyday questions that they did not have answers to. People came up to ask questions even during the break and after the end of the course. The course was an incredible eye-opener for those who have never been to Luxembourg but had to relocate to Grand-Duchy due to circumstances.
Tell us about the two instructors?
The instructors/lecturers of the course are Sabina Mammadova and Bakhtiyar Mammadov, natives of Azerbaijan who have already successfully delivered AMCHAM`s First Newcomers Orientation Course in the Russian language. Sabina has structured and given the course for the first time back in 2018 to a group of Russian-speaking expatriates who had moved to Grand-Duchy to live and work from 7 different countries. Our instructors have been living in Luxembourg for more than six years. Their experience conducting such a course and their personal life experience living in Luxembourg resulted in a new volunteer course. They included the necessary knowledge for newly arrived Ukrainians. When Sabina approached AMCHAM with this idea and said that she would be honored to volunteer to do this for Ukrainians who came to Luxembourg on a temporary protection status, we welcomed her initiative since she has already demonstrated her competencies in this topic. We must admit that the feedback we have received from the course participants this time was terrific. The attendees all called on her with great affection, and throughout the course, she provided answers to all the attendees ‘questions and concerns.’ Comments posted on our AMCHAM Facebook channel from course participants can attest to the value and quality of the course and its content where they specifically highlight the instructors’ approach.
How has AMCHAM promoted the course and attracted the attendees?
AMCHAM promoted the course through its website (amcham.lu) and its partners. Sabina has communicated the course announcement and its details in dual languages through a newly created Facebook page called Refugees from Ukraine in Luxembourg. Registrations for the first course have been quickly filled within the days of its announcement. This indicates the interest of Ukrainians in Luxembourg under temporary protection status and how important it is to get them under our wings on a continued basis.
Will there be further courses?
Yes, we will continue to run the course for as long as necessary. Most Ukrainian displaced persons have special needs or simple questions that remain unanswered after relocating to Luxembourg. The course navigates them in the right direction in everyone’s best interest.
What problems have the attendees identified that they need help with?
They have multiple problems. One of the main questions from the course attendees was related to their car registration in Luxembourg. They asked that if they register their car in which they arrived in Luxembourg, how will they drive it back to Ukraine when it is time to return to their homes. Some would like to keep Ukrainian license plate numbers and their vehicle registration certificates (for example, by handing them over to their consulate for temporary storage) to avoid customs clearance of vehicles upon return to their homeland once the crisis is over. Another important concern was that some people have places to live in Luxembourg (there are people/acquaintances who are ready to shelter them temporarily). Still, the State does not allow registration in these residential areas because there is not enough space for a family. Is it more convenient for people to live in such conditions than to share a shelter with strangers, and if there is such an opportunity to live in apartments with people they know, would they prefer this option? We have established a direct channel where they will continue sending their questions to AMCHAM, and this way, we will be able to direct them in the most appropriate method and help them overcome their obstacles.
Can private companies and individuals help?
AMCHAM has no promotional budget to get the word out about this free course. So as a first step, we would be delighted for everyone reading this article to pass the content along to any Ukrainian displaced person they know, encouraging them to sign up. Additionally, AMCHAM would be happy to have sufficient financial support to publish a free online or, even better still, a paper version of their 450-page encyclopedia DOING BUSINESS IN LUXEMBOURG book in Russian on how to start and run a company in Luxembourg. Likewise, if additional sponsorship funding becomes available, AMCHAM would like to be able to expand the offering to these displaced persons by setting up a dedicated support group, adding more donations of information and helpful content to a gift bag for attendees, inviting these displaced persons to the planned AMCHAM Summer BBQ, Thanksgiving, and other activities. The project team has done everything they can do very efficiently at high quality with minimal financial resources. Companies and individuals interested in joining as sponsors would be most welcome. Contact Paul@amcham.lu to discuss further.
Thank you, Bak and Sabina, for the interview and your continued efforts in supporting the people of Ukraine.