The war on talent: helping a Ukrainian refugee meet her potential

The war on talent: helping a Ukrainian refugee meet her potential

Our Principal Consultant for Business Services & Life Sciences, Ross Gordon and his family invited a 21-year-old refugee from Ukraine to live with them – and the experience has had a positive effect on their own wellbeing.

Lisa Kopteva is a remarkable young woman – hardworking, ambitious, tenacious, and brave. When war came to Ukraine, she was in Kharkiv, 30 miles from the Russian border, in the latter stages of an economics degree which she funded by working remotely for an American logistics company.

During the early days of the invasion, 21-year-old Lisa had hoped to remain in Kharkiv but it soon became apparent that the city was a major Russian target. Huge swathes of it have been destroyed by relentless and indiscriminate Russian shelling, upending the lives of her family and countless others. Lisa’s father has remained in Ukraine to fight and her mother is now in temporary accommodation in Germany.

So Lisa set off in search of safety, making the arduous and frightening journey through Ukraine and Poland, almost miraculously finding the time and resolve to keep doing her job remotely, logging in at sports halls and other facilities that were temporarily pressed into service to house the flood of migrating refugees. Eventually she made it to Prague, with the hope of finding a sponsor in the UK under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Which is where we came into the story. Like many families around the world, we wanted to help people affected by the war in some way. Our girls Ariarna and Harriet asked my wife and I whether we could open our doors to a refugee. In fact, they were commendably persistent and proved very adept at talking Mum and Dad round to their point of view. All of us are very glad they did. 

Now it feels like Lisa is part of our family too. Although her life has been tough this year, she integrated quickly and behaves like a big sister to my daughters and is an excellent role model. It’s been wonderful to see her settle in – and to observe the positive way in which she has been received by the local community in Cheshire. For instance, Lisa plays tennis to a good standard and a member of our local tennis club anonymously bought her a high-quality tennis racquet so she can play to her full potential whilst in the UK. The way that the club have taken Lisa under their wing is another example of true kindness.

Having Lisa in our lives has been good for us as a family too. Her resilience is a fine example to us and thinking about the traumatic upheaval she has gone through helps put minor day-to-day setbacks into perspective. I would go so far as to say that what we have done for Lisa has improved our mental wellbeing. Helping another human being really does make you feel good – as of course it should.

We’re far from done yet. Lisa is a clever young woman who has now completed her economics degree and is looking for a graduate/entry level job in accountancy/tax accounting in the Northwest, and we’re doing what we can to get her on the career ladder.

At Odgers Interim and our sister companies, we focus on board level recruitment rather than graduate appointments but given Lisa’s circumstances colleagues have been quick out of the blocks to provide pro bono support. Ardiana Hashani, Researcher for Berwick Partners, helped Lisa prepare her CV; Kathryn Spetch, Odgers Berndtson and Grant Speed Odgers Interim MD, have offered competency-based interview training; and myself and Duncan Hoggett and Mitchel Partington from our CFO Practice have been brainstorming regarding target companies in the North West region.

If we as a family – and indeed colleagues at Odgers – have been able to help Lisa feel valued and empowered, that’s a fabulous thing. We’ve seen her self-confidence and personal ambition blossom and it’s our profound hope that much success and happiness lies ahead. For her part, Lisa has enormous respect for the extent to which the UK is helping Ukraine at this dark time in its history.

If you know of an accountancy opportunity for Lisa, please contact me. Alternatively, if you are thinking about becoming a host under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, feel free to reach out.


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