A Ukrainian mum has become one of the first refugees to find work in the UK as 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 generational family – ranging in age from ten to 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 kids called Alikhan, 10, and Kamila, 12, started her new position as a nail technician at a beauty salon in Cambridge yesterday.
Having previously worked the same role in Ukraine, she said: ‘It feels fantastic.’
Valeriia Starkova (pictured), 37, escaped Kharkiv when Russia invaded Ukraine, and after after just over a month in the UK she has found a job in Cambridge as a nail technician
Valeriia was fully booked on her first day and has a busy week ahead of her at her new job (pictured giving a nail treatment to Rend Plantings – who helped her get to the UK)
Valeriia and her family spent three weeks driving to make it to the UK arriving on March 22 (pictured)
Valeriia’s son Alikhan Yusupov (pictured alongside his mother), 10, has already started going to school at Caldecote Primary School in the village of Caldecote, Cambridgeshire
Valeriia Starkova at the beauty salon in Cambridge where she has started her new job (pictured with owner Charlotte Liddiard on the left and Rend Platings on the right)
She continued: ‘I haven’t been working for two months so I’ve been waiting for this day for quite a long time.
‘I was hoping that I would get the job I love.
‘I was nervous that I wouldn’t understand clients and what they want but after I finished the course here I saw that it’s quite similar and the clients are actually really nice and they help me a lot.
‘The hardest part was doing my CV. It took me two or three days but without a CV you can’t find a job obviously.’
Valeriia is living with nine Ukrainian relatives at a house in Cambridgeshire that was offered to them rent-free 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 had all my life out there.
‘I miss my husband as well. He’s in another country right now and he’s waiting for his visa to come. The kids haven’t seen him for quite a long time.
‘It’s hard. All my life out there [in Ukraine] and I just left everything.’
Valeriia’s new boss Charlotte Liddiard, who opened CSL salon in Cambridge last April, said that her new recruit’s application ‘stood out’.
The family were helped in their journey to the UK by relative Roman Starkov, who is a British citizen.
The 38-year-old, of Cambridge, has lived in the UK for 20 years since travelling to the country to study.
The software developer helped his family through the visa process which he described as ‘pretty involved’.
‘You have to fill out arcane forms, and for such a big group there’s a lot of repetition, but once that was sorted we went to a visa application centre, they processed us very quickly, that was in Albania,’ he said.
He said his 90-year-old grandmother Ludmila Starkova does not have a valid international passport and had wanted to stay in Ukraine.
‘On every border that was a challenge,’ he said.
‘Fortunately every single border they figured something out and allowed her to pass.’
Eight of the family members took a flight from Albania to London Luton Airport, with Ms Starkova, who is Mr Starkov’s sister, and father their Mykola Starkov, 59, travelling 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) talks to Valeriia Starkova and her family as they settle into their new home in Caldecote near Cambridge
Mick Swinhoe’s property in Caldecote near Cambridge which is the new home of the Starkova family
Valeriia and her family received a welcome note from Mick Swinhoe’s children Natalia and Ella
Valeriia’s children Miroslava, Alikhan and Kamila have been settling into the new home and were able to bring their dogs Mikki and Florie with them from Ukraine
Valeriia is living with nine Ukrainian relatives at the house including Halyna (pictured), 89,
She added that Valeriia, who is the salon’s only nail specialist, has a busy list of clients this week.
Charlotte said: ‘Her application stood out. She sent a covering letter with her CV explaining her passion for the job.
‘It just felt like the right thing. I saw her work on her Instagram page and it was fantastic.
Charlotte, who has five employees, including Valeriia, added: ‘She’s fully booked today on her first day. She’s pretty fully booked for the week.
‘Her colleagues and our customers are really excited for her to work here.’
Charlotte said that Valeriia’s background – having fled bombarded Ukraine with her family – cemented the decision to hire her.
She said: ‘Obviously it’s nice to help. You have empathy with what’s going on. It’s just nice to be able to help and do something otherwise you feel pretty helpless.
‘It might be a little thing for me but it’s a big thing for her. She’s got kids and a family – you imagine yourself in that position.’