YPSILANTI — Millions of refugees have fled Ukraine, seeking protection from the devastating effects of the Ukraine-Russia war. However, according to Eastern Michigan University research published in Global Advances of Business Communication, many refugees who migrated struggle with the process due to communication and cross-cultural challenges.
EMU’s College of Business faculty Kimberley Barker, David Victor, and Christine Day (retired) collaborated to research the communication and cultural challenges confronted by Ukrainian refugees and those in destination and transit countries interacting with them, such as hosts, paid and volunteer agency staff, school and learning personnel, employers, and co-workers. The authors uncovered key themes such as language and cultural complexities, managing chaotic change, loss, and grief.
“The Ukrainian refugee situation presents a dramatic need to accommodate millions of Ukrainians into host or transit countries,” said Barker. “Among the many concerns are the language and cultural differences Ukrainians face as they flee to countries with which they are unfamiliar and whose people may be unacquainted with Ukrainian culture.”
To better understand the communication and intercultural needs of the Ukrainian refugees and those who support them, the researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 18 individuals between June 2023 and November 2023. Day expressed special gratitude for the generous way the interviewees shared their time and experience, providing an in-depth understanding that enhanced the research. “Several people recounted vivid descriptions of missiles flying overhead while others focused on the refugees’ chaotic change and the resulting loss of predictability in daily life,” said Day.
Victor’s globally recognized LESCANT model served as an anchor for the research. LESCANT is an application for effective communication in a complex intercultural setting, such as those experienced by Ukrainian refugees, host families, school systems, agency volunteers and paid personnel, potential and current employers, and co-workers.
Among Ukrainian refugees, female refugees carried most of the burden of migrating. “Many times, the men were forced by law to remain in Ukraine to be soldiers, while the women did everything related to family resettling and domestic management, including transportation, language, finances and employment barriers,” said Barker. This study highlighted that this circumstance was a variant of previous refugee patterns.
The research also uncovered many dimensions related to significant change, loss, and grief. “Taking just a second and putting yourself in someone else's shoes can help you understand what these refugees are facing and create a spirit of empathy,” said Barker. It may even be possible that this research has implications for global refugee situations in other parts of the world.
Day emphasized the importance of resolving the challenges facing the Ukrainian refugees and others involved. “The cost of not addressing these support systems will not be measured in monetary terms but in lost human potential,” she added.
This global research, published in Global Advances in Business Communication, aligns with the mission of the EMU Bruce K. Nelson Faculty Development Center, which grounds itself in awareness and support for cultural diversity and community-building.
About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 13,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and its graduate school. National publications regularly recognize EMU for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. Visit the University’s rankings and points of pride websites to learn more. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website. To stay up to date on University news, activities and announcements, visit EMU Today.