In this article, I uncover how women affected by migration make sense of their new positions in the labour market while drawing on and negotiating past ethnic meanings and experiences. I explore the individual biographies of legally privileged co-ethnic migrant women from the former Soviet Union to Germany through a gendered perspective of work. These women repatriates found that the ethnic promise of being “real” Germans given to them proved insufficient to access the labour market on equal terms, while their past Soviet socialisation led to struggles for recognition and marginalisation into low-status jobs. Although in the neoliberal German context, their labour-power is oftentimes devalorised, I demonstrate how these women are not only victims of this new neoliberal world order but also social actors conscious of their past competences and abilities. They pivot between the present and past socialist intensities and meanings of meaningful, hard, and in/visible work in an attempt to negotiate images of self and belonging. As I demonstrate throughout, these different meanings are complexly entangled with gender inequities that took shape during the Soviet era as well as in the ambiguous German migration regime and technologies of neoliberal governance with its own forms of gendered labour patterns.