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A journey from an invasion to an employment in the UK

When this lady from Ukraine arrived in the UK 13 months ago, she did not know any English or British Sign Language. 

She used to work in a pharmacy/ large chemist store back home in Ukraine, where she loved her job dealing with stocktaking, ordering, and stacking shelves. She has fond memories of dealing with many varieties of medication and storing them in the right sections of the shop shelves and medication cabinets. As the only deaf member of staff, she taught hearing people basic sign language at the store where everyone worked well together. 

However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine changed everything. She met up with a group of 5 other deaf ladies that she had previously worked with and they all fled to Croatia where they found jobs picking all sorts of fruit. After three months of hard work and low pay, one day her friend from the UK got in touch and agreed to support her to come to the UK to stay. She arrived here in August 2022 and stayed with her friend for a while. Once settled, she moved to live in a hostel. 

She attended the deaf centre in Birmingham to learn BSL and English, as part of a weekly class for deaf international sign language users, with many of the members coming from all over the world. Her language skills are going from strength to strength.

She was keen to work and wanted to find support to achieve this. She had sought help elsewhere without any luck. She was then signposted to Zebra Access and the BCF project, and she immediately registered to participate showing her desire to work and earn a living. 

Within a week she had a job interview with support from Zebra Access and preparations were made to ensure she knew how to find her way there alongside with interview practices and was instantly given a job. She started her new role in July 2023, working for a deaf-led Social Enterprise company operating across various locations in Birmingham. Her confidence has grown considerably since starting the job. 

Additionally, seeing that it is her first time working in the UK, Zebra Access supported her in all aspects of becoming employed i.e. open a bank account, understanding her contract of employment, taxes and so on. For this reason, she required additional support more so than others to deal with all other underlying aspects of transition from unemployment to being employed. 

To date she is enjoying the job, meeting new colleagues and customers, working with the team, and finding her new founded independence and freedom.

Linda Beasley, Specialist Employment Officer, said ‘I could see the despair in V.V.'s situation when she first joined the international class and that she was in a dire need of a job. She is a very bright and energetic woman, who is very knowledgeable. I am delighted as her journey here has been very difficult one where she needed much more support than just in securing employment. It was a privilege to have met her and I wish her all the best in the future.

Vita Vdovchenko said ‘I would like to thank this amazing lady, Linda, for helping me. When I arrived in UK, I was desperate to work and did not know where to start. I then met Linda who knew of my situation and offered me the support I needed. Upon applying for a cleaning job, I was immediately offered an interview and given the job. Whilst it is not my dream job, it is the new start that I badly needed, especially when I thought I was unable to get a job in the UK. I am very excited about the future. Thank you, Linda, with all my heart, for her support and to BCF for funding this very worthwhile project.' 

Michael Brickliffe, Managing Director at Argonaut Community Enterprises CIC, said ‘Vita is very keen, enthusiastic, and made a lot of effort at the interview to get a job with us. We were impressed with her despite English / BSL not being her first language. Since she started working for us, she has done a very good job for us. It is a pleasure to have her in our team as she is always smiling and focussed on her job. Thank you for supporting her in her journey in getting into work with us."



With the support of funders such as the National Lottery's Community Fund, BFI, Foundations, Trusts and so on, Zebra Access CIO provides a range of free services and support to Deaf, Deafblind, Hard of Hearing and Deafened people and communities. Zebra Access staff, volunteers have the right to work in a safe and abuse free environment alongside with service users. The organisation will not tolerate any kind of abuse against its staff, volunteers, service users or property.

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