Although we are all moved by the war in Ukraine, we experience it through the TV screen, not first hand, it seems far away. Katya (Kate) is a new resident to Chesterfield, arriving in February this year, she has been forced to flee her home and has made it across Europe to settle in our warm and friendly town.
The words below tell her story and how grateful she is for the help she has received in Chesterfield. I've edited things slightly as Kate is still learning English, but I've tried to keep it pretty much as she wrote.
My life story changed dramatically in 2022, a fateful year for millions of Ukrainians. In February on the 24th, the worst event of my life happened.
It is impossible to collect all the words and thoughts when you leave your home, leave your loved ones, your animals and leave with one bag in obscurity. The war divided everything before and after. I lived in a prosperous country, well developed, extraordinarily beautiful, wonderful nature, wonderful kind people, Odessa in Ukraine was my home.
I had my favourite job, I worked in the beauty industry, familiar with the complicated colouring and haircutting techniques. I had a small salon to which I went every morning to make clients happy. It's taken me eight years to learn my trade, creating beautiful hair tones. I've learned something new every year and never stopped learning, I have nine diplomas and seminars in my hair studio
When the war started, my mother and I went to Romania, it was the closest state we could escape to. We were received by very kind people who helped us in any way they could, and we are very grateful for that. When we crossed the ferry thousands of people came with us, they had nothing but a bag or suitcase, volunteers met us and helped with food and clothes.
Later I found an article on Facebook saying that there was a program for helping Ukrainians in England and I simply wrote a Facebook post. Many kind people responded and wanted to help me to start a new life in England, this is how I met Staci Brown, the first and only person I knew when I came to England. She is a person with a capital letter and a very kind heart, she is now like a second mother to me, and I consider myself so lucky to have been welcomed to her house. She helped me with all the documents, housing, and clothes. Sadly, my mother could not come with me, she had to go back to Odessa, as her mother is very sick and cannot walk, she needs help and care.
I am so grateful to Staci, I remember how she and her friends organised my birthday party. I can't tell you how happy I was at that moment. I was away from home, but I could feel all the support from my English friends, so my first birthday in England was very memorable and great fun.
Staci introduced me to the owner of a salon, Jimmy Flaxman, from Carlton's Hair Studio at 40 Glumangate. I became self-employed and this is where I now work, in this wonderful salon. I ask that, if you can, perhaps you could support me and sign up for any hair service, I promise you will be absolutely delighted.
Jimmy continues to help me, and I am amazed at how helpful and kind people are in England. My clients are girls from Ukraine and their babies, as I do children's haircuts too, but enjoy cutting and styling hair for the local ladies.
I have been learning English since day one, I spend all my time learning, attend Chesterfield College, and study with an online teacher on the phone. Of course, sometimes it is difficult, but I think we can overcome any difficulties.
I have come a long way in changing my life and I hope it will continue to change for the better, I have great support at the salon. The team helps me with everything and do all they can to make me feel good.
Away from work, I love animals very much and as a child I was not allowed to have a dog, so I always dreamed of having a dog as an adult and had three of them, but they had to stay behind in Odessa, and it breaks my heart.
In Ukraine I enjoyed going to the gym and loved sports, I now go to the gym in Chesterfield, and it helps me feel as though I am getting back to my roots.
I arrived in Chesterfield six months ago and during this time, I have made English friends, found a job I love, and I really like our small town of Chesterfield.
I hope the world will be a kinder place and the war will be over soon. "
Carltons Hair Studio
40 Glumangate S40 1TX
Text & Images: Katya