Ukrainian mother-of-two who fled Kharkiv becomes one of the first refugees to find work in the UK
A Ukrainian mother became one of the first refugees to find work in the UK when she started her job as a beautician – and her boss is already singing her praises.
Valeriia Starkova, 37, fled the war-torn city of Kharkiv with her family to move into a house in Cambridgeshire last month.
The four-generation family – aged between 10 and 90 – drove for three weeks through 13 countries to arrive in the UK at the end of March.
Now she has become one of the first Ukrainian refugees to find a job since arriving in the UK.
Valeriia, who has two children called Alikhan, 10, and Kamila, 12, started her new job as a nail technician at a beauty salon in Cambridge yesterday.
Having previously held the same role in Ukraine, she said: “It’s fantastic.”
Valeriia Starkova (pictured), 37, escaped from Kharkiv when Russia invaded Ukraine, and after just over a month in the UK, she found a job in Cambridge as a technician for nails.
Valeriia was full on day one and has a busy week ahead of her in her new job (pictured giving a nail treatment at Rend Plantings – who helped her get to the UK)
Valeriia and her family spent three weeks driving to the UK arriving on March 22 (pictured)
Valeriia’s son Alikhan Yusupov (pictured alongside his mother), 10, has already started attending Caldecote Primary School in the village of Caldecote, Cambridgeshire
Valeriia Starkova at the Cambridge beauty salon where she started her new job (pictured with owner Charlotte Liddiard left and Rend Platings right)
She continued, “I haven’t worked for two months, so I’ve been waiting for this day for quite a long time.
Mick Swinhoe: The Kind-Hearted Businessman Who Runs an Engineering Company
Mick Swinhoe is chairman and co-founder of Cambridge-based engineering consultancy Z-Tech Control Systems.
He started the company over two decades ago and has over 30 years of experience in industrial automation, electrical and mechanical systems.
Prior to founding Z-Tech in 2000, Mr. Swinhoe spent more than a decade at Northumbrian Water servicing water and wastewater facilities, followed by four years as an operations manager for a utility company. systems integration delivering automation projects for the UK water industry.
He also obtained management qualifications from Durham University and holds an HNC in Electrical and Electronic Engineering.
Mr Swinhoe, 52, said he bought the house next to his in Caldecote just before the outbreak of war and originally planned to use it as a “project house”.
An industrial automation company executive changed his plans, and after posting to Facebook groups, he was connected with a family.
Mr Swinhoe said he wanted the house used for ‘something more useful until I do something else with it’.
“It’s definitely a better use,” he said. “I can do what I want to do later when things get better.”
Mr Swinhoe said his two daughters, aged 11 and 15, were “really delighted” that there were three children in the Ukrainian family of 10, and he said they would be able to help integrate them into school.
“I was hoping that I would get the job that I love.
“I was afraid of not understanding the customers and what they want, but after completing the course here, I saw that it was quite similar and the customers are really very nice and they help me a lot .
“The hardest part was making my CV. It took me two or three days, but without a CV, of course, you can’t find a job.
Valeriia lives with nine Ukrainian parents in a Cambridgeshire home given to them free of charge by local businessman Mick Swinhoe, who sponsored the family’s visa application.
Speaking through tears, Valeriia said today: ‘Of course I miss my home. I miss everything I had there. I spent my whole life there.
“I miss my husband too. He’s in another country right now and he’s waiting for his visa. The kids haven’t seen him for a long time.
‘It’s hard. All my life there [in Ukraine] and I left everything.
Valeriia’s new boss Charlotte Liddiard, who opened the CSL lounge in Cambridge last April, said her new hire’s application “stands out”.
The family were helped on their journey to the UK by relative Roman Starkov, who is a British citizen.
The 38-year-old, from Cambridge, has lived in the UK for 20 years since traveling to the country to study.
The software developer helped his family through the visa process which he described as “quite complicated”.
“You have to fill in obscure forms, and for such a large group there is a lot of repetition, but once that was sorted out we went to a visa application centre, they processed us very quickly, it was in Albania,” he said.
He said his 90-year-old grandmother, Ludmila Starkova, did not have a valid international passport and wanted to stay in Ukraine.
“At each border, it was a challenge,” he said.
“Fortunately, at each border they found something and allowed it to pass.”
Eight of the family members flew from Albania to London Luton Airport, with Ms Starkova, who is Mr Starkov’s sister, and the father of their Mykola Starkov, 59, traveling by car and ferry, arriving four days later.
This was so they could bring more of their belongings and their two dogs, Yorkshire terrier Mikki and mini Maltese Florie, both aged two.
Mick Swinhoe (right) chats with Valeriia Starkova and her family as they settle into their new home in Caldecote near Cambridge
Mick Swinhoe’s estate in Caldecote near Cambridge which is the Starkova family’s new home
Valeriia and her family received a welcome note from Mick Swinhoe’s children, Natalia and Ella
The children of Valeriia Miroslava, Alikhan and Kamila settled in the new house and were able to bring their dogs Mikki and Florie with them from Ukraine
Valeriia lives with nine Ukrainian relatives at home, including Halyna (pictured), 89,
She added that Valeriia, who is the only nail specialist in the salon, has a busy list of clients this week.
Charlotte said: “Her candidacy stood out. She sent a cover letter with her CV explaining her passion for the profession.
“It was just the right thing. I saw his work on his Instagram page and it was fantastic.
Charlotte, who has five staff including Valeriia, added: “She’s full today on her first day. She’s pretty full for the week.
“Her colleagues and our customers are really happy that she is working here.”
Charlotte said Valeriia’s background – having fled bombed-out Ukraine with her family – cemented the decision to hire her.
She said: ‘Obviously it’s good to help. You have empathy for what is happening. It’s just nice to be able to help and do something otherwise you feel rather helpless.
“It might be a small thing for me, but it’s a big thing for her. She has kids and a family – you imagine yourself in that position.
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