Ukrainian women drive forklifts for Polish firms

STORY: "It is hard work, I know that, but I need to work and make money and there was no other job in Gorzow," Voroviy told Reuters during a break from her training session that will pave the way to a higher-paying job as a forklift operator.

"In Ukraine I was was working with my mind" the former sales manager said. "Here in Poland I’m working physically."

43-year-old Ukrainian refugee woman from Avdiivka, Elena Nelova: "After I was hired, I got a tutor. He was driving the forklift and I was following him in my forklift. He was showing me step by step everything that he was doing, starting from the gearbox, and ending with the scanner."

Companies across central Europe are scrambling to fill places left open by Ukrainian men who provided the blue-collar labor that powered manufacturing, construction, automotive and other heavy industries.

Attracted by higher wages and an easing of visa requirements, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians had flocked to central Europe in the past decade, filling jobs not highly-paid enough to attract local workers in construction, the automative sector and heavy industry.

Many of these workers have now returned home, after Ukraine declared martial law in February and required male citizens to make themselves available for military service.

Wojciech Ratajczyk, chief executive of staffing firm Trenkwalder Poland which is training Voroviy, said more than than 600 women answered an advert sent to 2,000 refugees about learning how to operate forklifts. A few dozen recently started a 4-week course organised in conjunction with companies.

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