Ukrainian refugee provides helping hand to new arrivals – Coventry City Council

Recently we spoke to Ukrainian arrival, Natalia Tsyhankova, to find out what life was like before the war in Ukraine, and what life has been like since resettling in the UK.

For distinguished mathematics graduate, Natalia Tsyhankova, the cost of leaving everything she’s ever known behind is not quantifiable.

An established mathematician with a degree from the University of Donetsk, 46-year-old Natalia was born in the industrial city of Makeevka, in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

With an impressive eye for numbers, Natalia has worked in several senior positions within the world of academic mathematics, serving as Deputy Director of a local Business College, as well as being a Senior Teacher of Elementary and Higher Mathematics at the European University in Ukraine.

All of this changed when Russia invaded the Donbas region in 2014.

“There were several stages in my life when I had to start everything from scratch. After the start of the war in the Donbas, I had to leave my parents, my career, my achievements, clothes, books, photos, and everything that I loved – and move to Kyiv. In Kyiv, I built my new career in the pharmacology and beauty industries, working for L’Oreal Ukraine”.  

After resettling in Kyiv, life seemed to settle down as Natalia adjusted to life as best as she could. That changed on the morning of February 24 when Natalia was suddenly woken by the sound of explosions in the Boryspil area of Kyiv.

“I knew straight away that I couldn’t stay here any longer, it wasn’t safe. I had to pack my life into a tiny suitcase and take what possessions I could with me, it was a signal to start a new stage in my life”, she said.

Natalia arrived in the UK through the Homes for Ukraine Scheme in April 2022.

“At first it was difficult for me. I had to complete a lot of documents and I had difficulty communicating in English”, she said.

“But the people in the UK are very friendly and understanding. I started attending the weekly support sessions in the Central Library that are run by the Council’s Migration Team and they helped me to improve on my English as well as showing me how to access different support services.

“My sponsor has also been incredibly supportive of me, he is an intelligent and extraordinary person, but he is most importantly my friend. His home is a place of kindness, safety, understanding and protection. And I`m grateful to my sponsor for everything he has done for me”.

After finding her feet in Coventry, Natalia soon began applying for jobs and soon secured a job working for Coventry City Council’s Migration Team as a Project Support Officer, providing support to other Ukrainian nationals arriving through the Homes for Ukraine Scheme.

“I felt the strength and inspiration to apply for this job. I wanted to share my ideas and help people who arrived in Coventry feel themselves at home”, said Natalia.

“It was my first interview in the UK, and it was not easy to get through. But when I received confirmation that I was accepted into the Migration Team, I realized that dreams become reality if you really want something very much and believe in yourself.

“My goal is for them to love Coventry the way I love Coventry. This is my home, my future and I want them to feel safe, and I`m always open to help and support them. I want the best for them, myself, and this city”.

Praising Natalia’s strength, Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities, Councillor David Welsh, said:

“Natalia’s unwillingness to let those experiences define her or her life shows true courage and determination in the face of adversity, and for that I cannot commend Natalia enough.

“Her unflinching optimism as she carves a successful life for herself is nothing short of inspirational, and her determination to support her fellow Ukrainians as they begin their integration journeys personifies the strength of the Ukrainian people.

“She has been an indispensable member of the community since arriving and I am proud to call her a Coventrian and member of Coventry City Council”.

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