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Here be Dragons...

Words: Paul Chapman

Images: Daria & Olya Bulavina

Last edition we caught up with Katya from Odesa and completely by chance, I’ve recently been chatting to Daria and Olya, two sisters who have come to Chesterfield, again from Odesa. We sat down to discuss their journey and their thoughts on Chesterfield.

The two sisters came to the UK in April 2022 on a sponsorship scheme, leaving behind their family to find a place of safety as their beautiful home beside the sea became a dangerous place to be.

“Our life changed overnight, plans, and dreams you have, taken away instantly,” says Daria. “Now everything we do is thought of as times before and after.”

"Our initial response was to grab a bag and get away, but where would we go, what would we do? We found there were sponsorship options available. These were more controlled escapes; visas are arranged so we can study and work here when we arrive at our destination."

"This took a short time to arrange but we quickly developed a plan. We drove to Moldova and then on to London to meet our sponsors." The sisters are now so pleased to be safe and staying with a local family of teachers. They still find the situation in Odesa impacts on everything they do which makes it extremely difficult to cope; on the surface they look calm and collected but both suffer mentally and physically from the pressures that the past six months have put on them.

When the pair talk, it’s so easy to overlook what they left behind, explosions near their house, their family still left in Odesa. It’s no way to live your life. “We needed to leave for safety, we both work as artists and illustrators, doing personal commissions etc so we put the word out that we were looking for a place of safety,” says Daria.

Today the pair are happy to report that their mother and brother are now also in Chesterfield, living next door with sponsors, their journey involved a hostel stay before moving in with a local family. Their father, and grandparents have had to stay in the Ukraine, and send pictures of the family cats over daily. Right now, they are at home, with no electricity, and conditions are not good.

Daria and Olya, with their mum sandwiched in between.

The pair explain how Odesa was previously a Russian speaking city with many historical links to Russia but today the locals have swapped back to Ukraine as a show of defiance and solidarity.

I ask what they think of Chesterfield? "We love the crooked spire, and I love the climate,” explains Daria," Autumn is my favourite season, the way the colours change has been one of the few things to make me feel happy recently.

"The climate in Odesa is warmer, it’s a city port on the Black Sea, we lived just a ten-minute walk from the seafront. Odesa features many Baroque buildings and has a population of I million so feels much busier than Chesterfield."

"Our favourite places to go in Chesterfield include Cawa Coffee house, where the host is from Ukraine, and we also love cheese, so the Cheese Factor is a great place for us to go."

Daria and Olya are studying English at Chesterfield College, Daria wants to get into university and is hoping to start in September next year, (she’s already overqualified to start at college but needs to pass her English before she can apply).

Back in Ukraine they both worked as freelance illustrators, their work focuses on fantasy and video gaming. Daria and Olya have recently worked illustrating a book on Ukraine mythology, ‘Ukrainian Bestiary’, the funds for which are going to the army.

The artbook includes 100 pages of concept designs of 50 different spirits, demons and creatures of Ukrainian myths and folk stories, created by 100 Ukrainian artists. On each page you'll also find descriptions of the creatures and ways to appease them or defend yourself from them. If you’d like to stay aware of future Mal'oviy projects visit:

Olya has a master’s in graphic design, her style inspired by stained glass, fantasy games, and digital work, etc.

The sisters are reunited with part of their family, long term the aim is to return home, to Odesa, but in the meantime to find work to fund their own home in Chesterfield, the family back under one roof. "If anyone has a house to spare?" adds Daria.

Chesterfield holds a meeting each Saturday morning at the Central Methodist Church on Saltergate which brings together Ukrainians from across the town.

It's heart-warming to learn how supportive our community has been, this story and Katya’s from the last edition are just two of many and I can only hope that at some point soon, events turn around and the family can look forward to the day when they return home.

Shown are illustrations by Daria and Olya, the dragon in the Market Place, opposite, is by Olya and features on the cover of S41 Local. if you need an illustrator please get in touch or if you'd like to see more, visit the links below where you can order prints.

Look out in future editions for news of how the sisters progress in Chesterfield.


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