Ukrainian refugees start new life and jobs with Great Scot in Keith working on Ukraine Forever Tartan
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WHEN Keith-based business Great Scot began the process of designing their Ukraine Forever tartan, they never dreamed that refugees from the country would help put the finishing touches to the process.
But that is exactly what has happened, with three women fleeing the heavily bombarded city of Kharkiv in Ukraine's east having arrived in Moray last week to take up jobs with the company at Isla Bank Mills, just as the tartan was being woven.
The trio – Larysa Karlova (53), her daughter-in-law Bohdana Karlova (22) and daughter Lizaveta Karlova (18) – all moved into a flat in Aberlour and were subsequently given jobs by Great Scot founder Margo Page.
The younger women – a lawyer and a languages student – started working at the mills on Wednesday, with Margo insisting they will be given everything they need for as long as they need it.
While Great Scot's tartan is set to raise tens of thousands for the Disaster Emergency Committee's Ukraine Humanitarian Fund, Margo felt she had to do even more.
"It's OK making a tartan," she said. "But we had to do that and then some to make a real difference. That meant really stepping up.
"I saw a post on Facebook about the three women and I said if they want a job, clothes or even just a day out to let me know.
"A man reached out to me and asked if we could give one of them a job. I said we'd give them all a job.
"We picked them up in the morning and before long we were laughing away.
"They are helping pack and move things. They're intelligent and sweet girls. We are loving them up here and they are thrilled to be in a safe, caring spot.
"We're trying to give them as soft a landing as possible. They have been thrown into a nightmare and we have to help them any way we can. As long as they are here they have a job and anything they want.
"It's a beautiful thing in the face of the hell they’ve been through these past two weeks. I hope a job here offers them stability, self-respect and community."
The ladies are often in touch with the men in their lives – fathers, husbands and brothers – who have stayed in Kharkiv to defend the city against the Russian invasion.
Understandably, they are emotional – but they have been given a feeling of hope by working on the Ukraine Forever tartan.
"I told them 'I didn't think you'd be standing here doing this' and said it was their honour and that the tartan gives them the feeling of hope," Margo added.
"We are flat out, working 14-hour days, but this is a daily reminder of why we are doing it."
Margo is trying as hard as possible to keep spirits high in the workplace, too.
She said: "I told them 'one day you will go home but until you do let me help you. When you do go home, we will come visit you. Let's make happy memories, of course this is sad but it doesn't have to be hopeless'.
"We are trying to lift their spirits and give them hope, love and confidence. To survive in situation so fractured you need joy, love and community.
"I've got a life-size cut-out of (Ukraine President Volodymyr) Zelensky which I'm hiding about the place. Humour has to prevail here."
In terms of charity, things are going exactly to plan for Great Scot.
The business has already raised more than £5000 through people rounding up their shop by a penny (or 50p or £1) and are set to raise thousands more through the Ukraine Forever tartan, which has just started shipping.
"It's going phenomenally well," Margo added. "We won't know exactly how much we have raised until everything is cut and sown but we've done really, really well."
For more information on Great Scot, or to order tartan, visit greatscotscotland.com/collections/ukraine-forever-tartan.