After working together in their hometown of Dnipro, friends Anna and Nastya had always dreamt of setting up their own business.

A little over a year ago, the pair had seemingly moved a step closer to that dream becoming a reality, settling on a plan and moving to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.

However, Russia’s invasion shattered those plans, and like so many others in Ukraine the devastation of war meant the friends were forced to leave their home in search of safety.

After initially spending time in Germany, Anna and Nastya began the difficult journey to the UK, after West Didsbury residents Liz and Matt made contact through a Facebook group and opened up their home.

“We found Liz and Matt in a Facebook group and 10 days later were on our way to the UK. After the process of adaptation and the emotional upheaval of life in a new country, we’ve already made friends here and we feel comfortable!

“We feel lucky that we chose this family, although, to be honest, they chose us, they called us on FaceTime, sent photos of the house and children. We spend a lot of time together, watching TV series, cooking dinners, celebrating holidays and laughing at the same jokes. We’re eternally grateful for all they do for us and that we feel at home here.

“When we first arrived we were more closed and under stress, but our English family surrounded us with care and support, Liz introduced us to all her friends, acquaintances and neighbours and it really helped us to settle here. We became more interested in life in Manchester, started going to protests in support of Ukraine and got to know other Ukrainians who are here because of the war or have been living here for many years.”

Now a little more settled in the South Manchester suburb, the girls have picked up a small piece of their original business plan and set up VIRA, specialising in natural, homemade candles across a range of gorgeous, eye-catching designs.

After word spread about VIRA, business rapidly picked up before Christmas, with orders flooding in faster than anyone could have predicted.

“We were very busy before Christmas, people wanted to buy gifts for their relatives, friends or loved ones and of course, support us. We really appreciate it. It was hard work and little sleep but it’s a pleasant tiredness after you’ve done something you love.”

The candles are made from soy wax and a wooden or cotton wick. Fragrance oil is added without parabens or any other harmful substances.

Candles can be ordered online via the VIRA website, and they’re also being stocked in Didsbury’s Lapwing Deli.

Bradley Lengden
Published on:
Thu 5 Jan 2023