Congratulations to Khrystyna Demchenko, who has been awarded our Academic Excellence Award today in our Bristol office. The award was presented by Mayor Dan Norris and CEO and General Secretary of the WEA, Simon Parkinson. 

Khrystyna is a Bristol-based refugee from Ukraine who had to leave her home after finding four missiles hidden near her home in Kyiv. She came to Britain as part of the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme.

She speaks fluent English and German, as well as Ukrainian, and so volunteered her services to the charity Respond Crisis Translation. But she quickly discovered that this required her to be able to interpret orally – something she had never done before.

She therefore signed up for a 12-week community-interpretation course with the WEA in Bristol and has now been able to help other refugees obtain asylum and access essential medical treatment, having completed our Community Interpretation Level 2 course.

(L-R) Mayor Dan Norris, Khrystyna Demchenko, Simon Parkinson

We spoke to Khrystyna who said: “The course taught me that I need to translate from a first-person perspective, that I need to be impartial, that I mustn’t have any side conversations or chitchat with anyone. I learnt that I shouldn’t summarise things, but should translate as accurately as possible – even one word can matter for a doctor or an immigration officer. The course really helped me boost my confidence.”

Since completing the course, Khrystyna has helped Ukrainian and Belarussian refugees with asylum claims, as well as with medical issues. She interpreted for a Ukrainian refugee needing help from a mental-healthcare team. 

And she recently took on her first simultaneous-translation job. “It was a big step for me, but it wasn’t as hard as I imagined,” she said. “It was really quite fun. I never expected a job would be something you really enjoy doing.

“I really like that this work is really rewarding. We not only help to break the barrier of language, but also help people gain access to medical services, immigration services or any other services. The right to translation should be one of the most important human rights.”

Mayor Dan Norris, who leads the West of England Mayoral Combined Authority, handed the award to Khrystyna. He said: “A huge congratulations to Khrystyna. It’s clear that, along with offering vital translation services to the West’s refugee community, she goes above and beyond, in terms of providing that additional support and guidance that we know is so important in helping people adjust to living in our region. 

CEO of the WEA, Simon Parkinson said: “Throughout her time at Bristol WEA, Khrystyna Demchenko showed a deep commitment to her studies, and consistently displayed excellent critical-thinking and analytical skills. 

“We’re particularly thrilled that her qualification has allowed her to give back to the community – it’s helped her, but it’s also enabling her to help others.”

WEA's Bristol award event is the first in a series of events that the charity will be hosting over the next few months as the WEA celebrates its 120th anniversary. 

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