Recently we spoke to Ukrainian arrival Iryna Izotova, to find out what life was like before the war and how she has settled into the city since arriving in the UK through the Homes for Ukraine Scheme.
Sat in the corner of a local government office, the quiet rumblings of keyboard clicks, mouse shuffling and office chatter are a striking contrast to the life Iryna Izotova left behind.
Born in the small eastern city of Berdyansk, Iryna moved cities and spent most of her youth growing up and studying in Slavyansk.
After studying Teaching and Psychology at the University in Slavyansk, Iryna uprooted and moved to Donetsk to pursue work and new opportunities; opportunities that were cut desperately short as Russia invaded the Donbas region in 2014, forcing Iryna to move to the capital Kyiv.
In Kyiv, Iryna led a quiet, peaceful life, singing in her local amateur choir, serenading the crowd with a classical repertoire.
As Putin’s war machine launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in March 2022, it rolled steadily westward towards the capital Kyiv and Iryna was once again forced to flee the only place she called home, an ordeal she described as “very difficult”.
“Nobody planned for this. A new language, a completely different way of life, new rules, new laws. It has been very difficult to navigate and comprehend how everything works here, especially in such a short space of time”.
Iryna arrived in Coventry safely in May.
A frightening and uncertain journey with many forks in the road, Iryna’s journey was not a lonely one.
She was accompanied by furry and familiar faces as she travelled with her friend, 42-year-old Anna, Anna’s 16-year-old daughter, Alina, and three cats, providing a comforting but small slice of home that would sustain her resolve in the months that followed.
A sincere and softly spoken woman, Iryna’s drive and determination to carve a successful life for herself against overwhelming odds has demonstrated itself through her volunteering in Coventry City Council’s Design Team.
Arriving in the UK with plenty of experience but lacking design experience for companies based in the UK, Iryna worked with her Employment Engagement Officer in Coventry City Council’s Migration Team, Meena, to search for job and volunteering opportunities to give her the best possible start.
After meeting the head of the Design team, Ira was given the opportunity to volunteer two days a week, supporting the Council across its wide portfolio of projects and helping to keep residents informed of the latest developments.
Complimenting the Design team, Iryna, said: “They are very nice people, very kind and helpful, always ready to help. Plus, they are amazing professionals.
“Even before meeting them, I admired many magazines and leaflets, admired the high level of craftsmanship with which printed materials were made. And I was very lucky to meet people who make excellent printed products.
On top of her volunteering duties, Iryna also works four days a week at a World of Books factory, helping to ensure books are scanned, processed both on print and digitally, and ready to be shipped out to their next location.
Living in the Cheylesmore area of Coventry, Iryna has been supported by her hosts, who Iryna describes as “wonderful, very supportive friends who we see regularly”.
Despite her forced relocation due to the war, Iryna has her eyes set firmly on working full-time as a Graphic Designer and rebuilding her life here in Coventry.
When asked what message she would give to the refugees of the world, she said:
“Hope is the great invention of the universe. It is hope that helps to sustain you until better times. So, be thankful for hope, rejoice when you have it. If there is hope, then you will live to see a brighter future.”.
Commending her bravery and determination, Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities, Councillor David Welsh, said: “Iryna’s courage in the face of such terrifying and uncertain circumstances is a testament to the resilience of her and her fellow Ukrainians.
“I am incredibly proud that she has made such a positive impact to the Council’s Design team in such a short space of time and that she is making the most of the opportunities available.
“Coventry’s support to those forcibly displaced from their homes is unwavering, and we will continue to support new arrivals from around the world for as long as we must”.