Refugee Olga's award highlights education charity's role in South Tyneside

A woman who sought refuge in South Tyneside from the war in Ukraine is forging a new life for her family after qualifying in a new career.
Olga Myronovska.Olga Myronovska.
Olga Myronovska.

Olga Myronovska, 34, settled in South Shields with her two children and her mother after the Russian invasion of her country ans is now working as an interpreter – thanks to the support she received from the Workers’ Educational Association.

She said: “It was very challenging at first. Even though I can speak English there are many cultural differences.

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"I feel happy and I’m very thankful that I'm here. People in the UK have welcomed us, which is nice, but things are changing every day in Ukraine and the news from home makes me very sad.”

WEA chief executive Simon Parkinson.WEA chief executive Simon Parkinson.
WEA chief executive Simon Parkinson.

After settling her children into school and nursery, she looked for opportunities where she could use her skills to help others in similar situations – and joined WEA’s community interpreting course.

That helped Olga land a job as an interpreter at hospitals, GP surgeries, and schools.

She described the course as “a lifeline” adding, “it was the highlight of my week. It helped me to settle and make new friends.” 

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“The WEA has given me a chance to represent the Ukrainian community today and help Ukrainians who don't speak English.

Award winner Olga Myronovska.Award winner Olga Myronovska.
Award winner Olga Myronovska.

"I can find them help by building this little bridge between them and the services they need.” 

 She added: “The biggest need for the community is to help them at the doctors, explaining their symptoms of what medicine they need when they can't explain themselves.

“That is very hard if they can’t speak English.” 

WEA’s North East team recognised not only Olga’s passion on the course, but also her desire to put her learning to practice and help those living in her local community – which has earned her a gold Career Success award from the organisation.

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Simon Parkinson, chief executive of the WEA, said: “I am so proud of Olga. Her passion for learning and helping others shone and it is only right she wins this award.

“It is not easy to settle in a new country, especially in the circumstances of war, but Olga has created bonds in her community.”

The Workers’ Educational Association is a charity dedicated to bringing high-quality professional education into the heart of communities – but is currently facing its own challenges.

Chief executive, Simon Parkinson, says the newly formed North East Combined Authority is aiming to stop £1.3m funding and divert the cash to prioritise college provision.

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That, he says will leave 1,600 learners without any options and put 72 jobs at risk.

He said: “Courses like our community interpreting courses are vital as they do not require previous qualifications, which makes them a great entry back into education.

“This makes the WEA different from most providers, but that is at risk should the newly formed North East Combined Authority stand by their decision to defund our work in the area.”

He added: “Currently eight per cent of working-aged adults in the North East left education without qualifications and we are the experts to help them.

“While we continue to fight to bring back our funding, we hope Olga’s story reminds local decision makers why the work the WEA does is so vital.”

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