How a Ukrainian refugee fled war to rebuild life in Worcestershire - The Malvern Observer

How a Ukrainian refugee fled war to rebuild life in Worcestershire

Malvern Editorial 17th Feb, 2024   0

A UKRAINIAN refugee who fled the war-torn country for a new life in Worcestershire has been honoured for rebuilding her life with a major award.

Oksana Viktorova was handed the gold learner Worker’s Educational Association (WEA) award as part of the charity’s annual award ceremony, in Worcester’s historical Guildhall building.


The mother of two sons fled war-torn Ukraine and found refuge in Evesham. Grateful for the generosity of her sponsors, she embarked on a journey to rebuild her life in a new country starting with learning the language.

On Monday (February 12) she was presented with a WEA Gold Community Contribution Award.

Oksana said: “Nobody knows what can happen next in our lives. I was working in the Ukrainian Government and then the war broke out.

“I understood I needed to do something. I love people. I like working with people. I wanted to find something like I had in Ukraine.”

Despite facing language barriers, she was determined to improve her English skills to secure employment and support her family.

Through her unwavering commitment, Oksana diligently attended English lessons provided by the WEA three times a week. Additionally, she volunteered at a local charity shop, seizing every opportunity to practice her new-found vocabulary.

The fruits of Oksana’s labour have blossomed as she secured a position with Worcester City Council, a testament to her hard work and perseverance.

In her role, Oksana extends a helping hand to fellow Ukrainian refugees, assisting them with housing and employment searches. She embodies the spirit of resilience and community, giving back to others what she has learned through her educational journey.

She added: “Thanks to the courses I did with the WEA I have my job with Worcester City Council. I try to do what I can for my family, for our community, and I’m very happy to do this.”

Warwick Neale, community services team manager at the city council, said: “Oksana’s such a positive force in the team.

“When you go on courses it gives people that chance to expand on something that will benefit work as well as you.”

Elen Downward was presented with a Multiply Gold Award at the Worcester Guildhall ceremony. Elen has overcome challenges of living with Dyspraxia to excel in her WEA numeracy classes.

Despite facing numerous setbacks in her pursuit of mathematics education, Elen remained undeterred. After unsuccessful attempts at traditional courses, she turned to the WEA’s Multiply program.

With a history of volunteering, but lacking confidence in securing paid employment, Elen embraced the opportunity to enhance her skills and boost her self-assurance.

Living with Dyspraxia, Elen navigated the challenges of online learning at her own pace, leveraging the support of her numeracy coach to overcome obstacles.

Her perseverance paid off as she progressed to a Level 2 Functional Skills maths course and now sets her sights on enrolling in a Level 3 Digital Boot Camp – a journey she once believed to be beyond her reach.


She said: “The WEA courses have helped me so much – they’ve given me confidence in learning again. I’m really enjoying the learning and have progressed with my maths.”

Simon Parkinson, chief executive of WEA, said: “Congratulations to both Oksana and Elen on their remarkable achievements. Their stories showcase exactly why adult education is so important and that it is never too late to learn.

“Both women have triumphed under difficult circumstances – Oksana having fled a war and having to rebuild her life and Elen who never gave up despite having previously bad experience learning.

“I hope other people will read their stories and give WEA a chance to help them learn – whether it is a course to develop a new skill for life skills, work, or just for pleasure.”


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