Yana Smaglo is a fashion designer of women’s clothing and lingerie. Following her escape from Ukraine, she is re-launching her fashion business in the UK after making a new home in Leeds, Yorkshire. 

Yana woke up to the sound of bombs being dropped outside her residence in Kyiv, given only 15 minutes to pack her things and flee. Travelling through Poland, then Germany and France, she finally arrived in England, where her friend lives in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, offered to be her host. 

Yana said: “As I left behind my home and friends, I also had to leave behind my business.”

Yana started a distribution company for Ukrainian clothing brands in the UK, called Nenya. 

“When I just came here, I did not know anybody except my friends and they are really far away from the fashion industry. New place, new business and I was really scared and upset that I lost my life in general.” 

She continued: “Mentally, it is quite hard to understand that I built something for eight years and then somebody came and took everything from me. I have nothing to gain.” 

The final goal of her business is to promote Ukrainian fashion and to support the Ukraine economy. 

“Also I am here now and I want to be a part of society and that includes paying taxes, not just being a refugee taking money from the government. I want to help other Ukrainian refugees here too,” she added.

All the hard work and support have paid off, Nenya has already established pop-up shops in Victoria Gate and Trinity Shopping Centre in Leeds. There is another pop-up shop opened in the heart of London from 23rd to 29th October, at Islington Square Unit G2.2, 116 Upper Street, London.

Yana encourages the refugees who want to pursue their careers in the UK not to give up, although it is really hard in a different market, different country, and different culture. 

“Just be patient and do not give up, everything will be okay. I always say the same thing to myself every day.” 

To find out more about Nenya