Ukrainian entrepreneurialism in the East of England
MENTA have been working with partners including The East of England Local Government Association and Norfolk County Council.
Helping refugees become economically active is the best way to help them integrate and settle into life in the UK. Whether it’s Ukrainians fleeing from the Russian invasion or Syrian nationals unable to return home, the Strategic Migration Partnership’s Well-being & Work for Refugee Integration (WW4RI) project looks to help them with therapeutic support, or into employment or support them to set up their own businesses.
Among the 1,500 to receive help from the scheme is Ukrainian Nataliya Churikova.
On receiving news of her mother’s death in Ukraine in February 2022, Nataliya immediately travelled from Kyiv to support her family 400 miles away in the west of Ukraine. She arrived back home on February 23 at midnight – and over the next four hours, war broke out.
“A fragment of a rocket hit nearby our house,” she said. “Due to the great danger, we hurriedly left home.’’
“We arrived in England in the middle of June. Until the very last moment, we thought that the world would stop the war. But it hasn’t.”
Nataliya had studied in the UK from 2000 to 2005, so was invited to stay with a British family in Norfolk she had been in contact with ever since.
In Ukraine, Nataliya had been a television editor on Channel 5 working on EnergoNEzalezhnist, a TV programme about energy. She had also worked in PR, as a communications manager, as well as assisting with a charity fund that helped people flee from the war in 2014.
“Great Britain is a wonderful country, people are nice, but I always wanted to live and work in Ukraine,” she said.
“I never thought that I would have to leave Ukraine under such circumstances.
“The move was difficult, the loss of my mother, the war and moving to another country was very painful. All we had was in two small bags.
“The children are very homesick and want to know when they can return – but you keep silent because you don’t know.”
When Nataliya arrived in the UK, she bought an inexpensive t-shirt for herself and son Roman, a talented artist, who painted it in the flags of the UK and Ukraine.
From this, Roman was asked to paint t-shirts and eco-bags for a church flower festival in Old Hunstanton, Norfolk, raising £300, with all money raised going to the Ukrainian Army.
Nataliya then set up a project creating Christmas postcards to sell, raising another £500 for children who have lost their parents in the Russian war against Ukraine.
Eager to push on with the idea, and for Roman to grow his artistic talent, Nataliya went to seek support and advice.
She said: “Cooperation with MENTA began when I applied to Norfolk County Council.
“I got a call from Andy Byrne from MENTA and the Strategic Migration Partnership and after learning about my idea, he offered to help with the project.
“MENTA helped us build a business strategy. We are now working on the business plan of the project and it is progressing successfully.
“We are very grateful to MENTA for this chance. This is a strong helping hand for us – MENTA and the Strategic Migration Partnership.”
To say thank you for the support her family and all Ukrainians have received in the UK, Nataliya designed and Roman drew a special thank you card – which the family sent to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
“We sent this card through our MP James Wild to the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Rishi Sunak, and he received it,” said Nataliya. “The MP’s office sent us a picture of Mr Wild and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with a thank you postcard.”