The war, she said, changed that. “Many around the world started to admire the courage of Ukrainians who stayed and fought. This in a way changed people’s perception of them from outsiders to Europe to ‘one of us.’”
Ms. Samoylenko said she had always prided herself of being a Ukrainian “success story,” with her own gymnastics club and job as an instructor. She had invited Ukrainian gymnasts to give lessons in Italy even before the war, but now interest has grown, she said, and the perspective has generally shifted.
“Now when you say Ukrainian, one does not necessarily think ‘caregiver,’ but of a people who are defending themselves with their own hands,” she said. “The image has changed.”
Maryna Shutyuk, 25, who was born in Ukraine but has lived in Italy for more than 10 years, feels a stronger desire to exhibit her national pride. Now, she finds herself wearing her embroidered Ukrainian shirts at her family’s hotel, where she works as a receptionist. Before the war, she would do so only rarely, usually, for religious holidays she celebrated with other Ukrainians.
The shirts, she said, are “starting to become fashionable.”
Ms. Shutyuk also joined the Ukrainian association in Verona set up by Ms. Sorina, who said the increase in the Ukrainian population was contributing to a growing number of cultural centers, services and events focused on that community.
Perceptions from those outside the Ukrainian community are also changing, she said.
“Before when you said you were Ukrainian they would tell you, ‘My grandma’s helper is also Ukrainian,’” Ms. Sorina said. “Now they look at you with respect.”