Ukrainian refugees join Prince’s Trust development course

Vlada, Nav and Vlad.

When it comes to motivation the latest group of young people from the Prince’s Trust Catterick Team need to look no further than teammates Vlada Datsenko and Vladyslav Lysenko.

Looking to restore some normality to their everyday lives, the two young Ukrainians signed up to the 12-week personal development course to build their language skills, meet new friends and learn about everyday life and culture here in the UK.

Perhaps most importantly, for them, it also provided a welcome distraction, as they prepare to rebuild their lives after seeing their home country struck by war.

Catterick team leader, Seveci Navelinikoro (Nav) said: “Both are a reminder to us all, that we can all have problems and baggage, but it is hard to use that as an excuse not to try when you see them turn up every day, with smiles on their faces.”

Just 12 or even six months ago, 21-year-old Vlada was studying at university and working as a sales manager in a design company in Ukraine, with ambitions to one day run her own business.

She said: “Moving is difficult because you have to leave your whole life, friends, family and work, but I understand that I am very lucky.”

On her phone she has photos of her home in Irpin and the devastation there.

She said: “I remember those first weeks; it is difficult when you understand that at any moment there may be explosions nearby and the constant sirens which meant we had to hide in the cellar. It is difficult to be under such pressure.”

Vladyslav is 23 and from Odesa.  Looking back just a few short months, he said: “I had a beautiful and cool life.”

With a lifestyle he loved, travelling the world working in cryptocurrency, he said: “Last year I was in Dubai and Turkey. Now I need to rebuild my life, starting from zero.”

Leaving Ukraine for Moldova before restrictions came in, and then moving on to Bucharest, he explained there are no words to describe the way he felt when he heard those first missiles had struck his homeland in February.  “I can only describe it as agony from the top of my head to my toes,” he said. “I was in shock, my legs were like jelly and I froze.”

Now in the UK with his mum and eight-year-old brother, he arrived with just a rucksack with his laptop, iPad, a microphone, trousers and socks.

Staying just outside Reeth, he said people have been very kind, helping out with essentials, but a hoody sent from his father back home meant the world.

“It was something that belonged to me,” he said, “it felt like a little sign from my past life.”

Grateful for the support they have received from the UK and hoping the conflict will come to an end soon, allowing them to return to their “lovely country”, Vladyslav and Vlada try to moderate the amount of news they watch for their own wellbeing.

While they constantly worry for those back at home, they are determined to move forwards, and both said taking part in The Prince’s Trust course offered a good first step.

Vlada, who is living in Richmond, not far from her mum and siblings, said: “For me it was a chance to communicate with nice people and help to distract from bad thoughts.

“And, thanks to the course, I have started to speak much better English.”

Vladyslav added: “You can’t always feel sorry for yourself or be afraid, you need to live forwards. This for me was the best option to make friends, they can give you emotional support and it was a distraction.”

Heading up the Catterick Prince’s Trust Team which is designed to help develop self-confidence, leadership and employability skills, delivered by the Education Training Collective, Nav said: “It has been remarkable to have Vlada and Vladyslav on the team, they have shown so much enthusiasm and resilience.

“It has been emotional at times, particularly when they shared their backgrounds with the other young people, but despite everything they want to continue to learn and want to contribute to the community.”