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Yuliia's portrait

A journey home: Yuliia’s return to Ukraine

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has now been ongoing for two years. In that time, over six million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their country. Among them was Yuliia Boiadzhian, our Office & Finance Administrator. Now, she’s decided to return home. We recently sat down to talk about her time at Six and upcoming journey. It was a Tuesday afternoon, and as usual, Yuliia was sipping coffee. She recalled a drink from back in Ukraine.

Espresso with orange juice?

Yeah, espresso with orange juice. It's delicious. It's so good, especially in summer. We usually add lots of ice. You make one or two espresso shots, add some orange juice, and it's a bit sweet, but very refreshing. 

Usually, in coffee shops in Bristol, when I ask, “do you have this with orange juice?” they're like, “what... are you nuts?”.

We’ll have to try it! Could you tell us a bit about your background before Six? 

Before moving to the UK, I used to work as marketing manager in a few different companies. I specialised in publishing houses, and everything related to book production and literature. 

I grew up in Kyiv and spent all my life there before moving to the UK. My education is in marketing and psychology, which is great because I believe that in marketing, to really understand your clients, you need to know their psychology.

As well as that, I also completed a range of courses and qualifications in marketing. I'm the kind of person that is never satisfied; I always think you can do better.   

Can you tell us about how you ended up joining Six?

So, the war started, and I spent a month in Ukraine. I realised that there were no work opportunities because everything just stopped. Life just stopped. And I could see that I needed to leave, go abroad, and find work.

I decided to go to the UK, and I was preparing myself to work as a waitress, or something similar, because I had no UK experience, and my English was not that great. However, I saw Six was looking for an Office & Finance administrator, so I applied, and I was surprised when Six invited me to an interview.

I think Six was incredibly brave to offer me the job because I was in a very unstable situation. Everyone was really supportive of my English, and it improved. Now it’s much more fluent, and sometimes I even dream in English!

How did you find adapting to life in the UK? 

The first month, I felt a sort of euphoria because it was something new. But, by the second month, when I realised that it wasn’t just a trip, and I couldn’t go back home, it was rough.  

After half a year here, I just accepted it. It was hard because I couldn’t fully commit to building a new life in the UK, knowing I wanted to go back to Ukraine. However, Bristol is my second home now. So, it's like choosing between two homes.

When I was on a trip this winter to Kyiv, I was happy to be in Ukraine, but I was thinking, oh, I miss Bristol, I miss Six!

Yuliia's photos with family and friends in UK
Source: Yuliia's photos from UK
Perhaps it goes without saying, but why is returning to Ukraine important to you? 

The first thing is, home is always home. The country that you spent all your life in will always feel better than any place in the world. Just having coffee at my usual coffee shop, where I had coffee every morning for the last 10 years, it feels so much better. 

The second is family and friends. Everyone there is the people I want to spend my life with. And thirdly, patriotism. Because I really want to make my country great, and I know that, even on my own, I can contribute to its development.

People are dying, people are suffering. From abroad, there is not much I can do. But being in Ukraine, I can help. I can pay taxes, influence government decisions, volunteer, donate. How can you just go abroad, live your best life, knowing that someone is giving their life for your safety? How can you sleep? I can't.

Can you share what it was like for you when Russia's invasion started?

We woke up. Early morning, 24th February 2022, to explosions and the sound of helicopters. Air raid sirens started to go off, and my mum, who was in Poland at that time, called me. She said, “Yuliia, wake up. The war has started”. 

I said, “What for? What do you mean? I want to sleep!”. It was five o’clock in the morning. Then I realised there were actual explosions, and I had a huge panic. I just didn't know what to do, but luckily, I had my boyfriend with me. He woke up and said we should stay quiet, that we just need to go to the metro where there is a bomb shelter.  

We spent two days in the metro, just hiding. Living in the centre of Kyiv, it was very intense. Russian soldiers were jumping off the helicopters and shooting on the streets. I realised that we really needed to run away from Kyiv.

So, we went to the West of Ukraine. The most painful thing was that lots of experts were telling us, “Oh, Russia only has money for one week of war. They will run out of money, and everything will stop, or Europe will not allow Russia to continue”. We were just waiting, thinking, “Tomorrow it will stop. Just one more day”. But now it’s been two years. 

Do you have any family or friends with experiences you'd like to share?

One of my friends is from Mariupol, a town occupied by Russia. They destroyed about 90 percent of the buildings there, and she has no home anymore. So, she was living in my apartment for some time.

There is one moment I will never forget. We went for a walk in Kyiv last year in the summer, and in the centre of the city, we have big banners with pictures of towns that are occupied. One of the pictures was from Mariupol - a dolphin, which is the symbol of the town. And my friend stopped; she was looking at this dolphin for about a minute. Then she just started crying.

It was so hard to see her crying because she doesn't have any place to come back and say, “this is my home”. And she is not the worst case of this war. Many don't have homes or relatives. There are millions who have been killed, tortured, raped.

Destroyed residential building in Kyiv after russian attack
Source: Yuliia’s photo of a destroyed building in Kyiv. Showing the consequences of a russian attack
How can we help Ukraine? 

The first is to talk about Ukraine. Read news about Ukraine. Keep an eye on it. Be interested in what's going on and don't forget about it - even talking is support. 

The second is to donate. There are many foundations abroad or in Ukraine that need money. You can support people who have lost their homes, give equipment to soldiers, or provide for those in need of medical help or food. Even a small amount makes a difference.

Next is helping Ukrainians abroad. The scheme I'm here with is called Homes for Ukraine, and it means if you have a house or apartment, you can be a host and provide a safe place to live.

The last thing you can do is speak to your government. When people think they can't influence government, it's not true. Government policy is formed on needs. So, if people are talking about something a lot, the government will hear, and they might do something about it.

Speak to your government, go to protests, meet Ukrainians, talk to them.

Images of Kyiv and life during war
Source: Yuliia’s photos from Kyiv
Thanks so much Yuliia. What will you miss about Six? 

Tom's loud and charming laugh, Ali's secret chocolate storage, Julian's whistling, Penny's care for everyone, Sophia's strange and funny GIFs, Dan's jokes we force ourselves to laugh at, Parissa's love of gardening and cats, Amy’s happy madness and motivation, Ruth’s determination to create the perfect workplace, John’s old but gold music playlist, David’s social media skills, and every aspect of all the Sixers that make Six, Six.


Yuliia’s recommended ways to donate and support Ukraine:

Come Back Alive Foundation

Voices of Children

Homes for Ukraine

Future for Ukraine

Yuliia’s recommended news sources for updates on Ukraine:

Kyiv Post

Kyiv Independent



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