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How a Liverpool shop is supporting best friends who fled war in Ukraine

1 year ago

How a Liverpool shop is supporting best friends who fled war in Ukraine

A Liverpool art and design shop is helping two best friends to restart their business in the North West after they fled their home in Ukraine.

As the city gears up for Eurovision, The Nest at the Albert Dock is supporting Anna Shturmak and Anastasiia Berest to showcase and sell their collection of beautiful candles.

The friends were encouraged by their families to leave everything behind in Kiev and find safety in the UK after the Russian invasion.

They moved to the north west in spring last year after being paired with a host family and have now launched their candle business VIRA here.

Katherine at The Nest with Anna and Nastya
Katherine at The Nest with Anna and Nastya

Katherine Caldwell, who runs The Nest, says she was actively looking for Ukrainian makers and creators when she found Anna and Nastya on social media.

She explains:

“I wanted to support a Ukrainian business, but I didn’t want to just stock random work because it had a Ukraine connection. I wanted to find a business that I felt we could actually really get to know and give some hope to. 

“I felt Anna and Nastya’s was one that just needed the benefit of being somewhere like the Albert Dock and having this huge audience during Eurovision seeing their work and hopefully buying the candles.”

Katherine says when she got in touch with the friends, who are both in their early 20s, she was instantly moved by their story.

A VIRA candle
A VIRA candle

Katherine said:

“We spoke and met up, and they were telling me about their families and how they’d been affected by the war. They’re carrying with them all this worry about the uncertainty and the immediate danger that their families are potentially in, and still trying to imagine some sort of future without really knowing what they’re going back to.

“English isn’t their first language so they’ve had to learn pretty quickly and they miss their families and friends so much so there have been a lot of challenges for them as well as trying to run a business.”

The pair have been warmly welcomed to their new temporary home in Didsbury, and Katherine says the local community has been very supportive in helping them to adjust.

Katherine said:

“They were matched with their host family as part of a programme through Facebook to come to the North West. The woman they’re living with particularly wanted to have them, and she’s given them her attic to use as their office, so now they have studio space within the house they’re staying in to work from.” 

The Nest will be selling VIRA candles on a non-profit basis and Katherine hopes it gives Anna and Nastya a welcome boost after all the upheaval they’ve been through.

A VIRA knot candle
A VIRA knot candle

Katherine added:

“I know we’re going to be busy during the contest and the shop’s going to do well anyway so this is my chance to really help somebody like myself when I was their age, wanting to start a business.

“It’s not a case of me giving them charity, I think their brand can be really successful because they’ve done everything – the creation, the branding and the design – so well. 

“But I think it’s a great way for us to honour Liverpool hosting Eurovision on behalf of Ukraine. Eurovision is for everyone and anyone, people can just be themselves, so aside from the music it is a lovely celebration because it brings people together from so many different communities.”

For more information on The Nest check out their website here.



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