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Nelya Moroz escaped bombed Kyiv and unleashed her embroidery talent at Kingly

The craft resembles jewelry making if you use sparkle thread

Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Nelya Moroz was a Russian language teacher who was exploring hand embroidery as a hobby. That was until one day she woke up to the sound of bombing, jumped in a car and left Kyiv for good. Or at least that was what she thought. Every part of her story from that moment on is “absolutely amazing”. Nelya uses that combination of words a lot, as she still needs to pinch herself because of the fascinating chain of events that helped her develop, unleash her embroidery talent and find a new beginning at Kingly. Let’s get to know her better.

Nelya, recently you came to work for Kingly as an embroidery specialist. I am quite interested in your story as I learned that you came from Kyiv shortly after Russian president Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Can you tell me what happened in your country? I imagine the journey from the bombed city to Bulgaria was quite hard.

I came to Bulgaria one year ago. In Ukraine, I was a Russian language teacher in a secondary school. I received my education in the Soviet time. Back then diving into the Russian language was a logical step for me. However, in 1991 I realized that I will not be able to use my diploma anymore. I decided to start teaching Russian to foreign students. I had some experience at several private schools and I had several adult students. Last year I was working for a British International School, Ukraine (BISU) with foreign students. When the invasion started, one of our sons who was living in Sofia said that we need to leave Ukraine and move in with him. I couldn’t imagine leaving the school because I had responsibilities. But on the first day of the attack, we woke up to those sounds…

Sirens?

Not sirens. Bombs. It was the first time I had ever heard these sounds. Everybody in Ukraine is familiar with these sounds now. The sirens came later on when we understood how we can handle these situations, and where to hide. But at first, these were bombs.

We jumped into our car and went to the Bulgarian border. But it was not possible to cross it as my husband is not 60 years old. As he is not yet retired he might be called to defend the country. We stayed at the border for some time. And my son said: “You need to split up. Dad needs to stay in Ukraine. You should cross the border and bring my sister here.” My youngest daughter was with us at that time. My husband stayed in Ukraine. And my daughter and I crossed the border on foot. I remember the date very well. I came to Bulgaria on 3 March 2022*. We have visited the seaside before but only as tourists.

When we came to Bulgaria, we started contacting lawyers to figure out how to manage our life here. We have some friends here, and they arranged for me to start learning the language. They paid for the lessons. Of course, I did not think I could use Bulgarian anywhere. Last year, before the occupation had a job, I had ideas and dreams but I had to leave them all behind. I was convinced that our apartment will be destroyed.

The only thing I brought with me was my embroidery kit, as I really appreciate it. I had started creating a Ukrainian shirt for my niece. I took it with me so I could finish it. I previously did embroidery for my son, husband, sister and my mother.

At some point, I thought I could continue developing this skill. That I could find some materials here, that I could sell my crafts and earn some money. That was the idea at least. I found some materials, started a new project and shortly after that I finished it. I made some photos, and uploaded them to my profiles on Facebook and Instagram. I asked my previous students if they would buy my embroidery. They were very interested as these products were handmade. Of course, they were popular but also very expensive and not everyone needs them. Not everyone can afford them.

Around that time, I started thinking that I could buy and embroidery machine and make the products I create cheaper. I started researching the topic and I realized I don’t know all that much about machine embroidery, the production process and the industry. That is why I continued doing handmade embroidery. I understood that I need to find another way to sell my products. I also realized I spent too much time at home. I needed to go outside, to meet new people.

I thought I could search for open job positions that will help me move to the next level. I knew that there is a special website – ukraine.gov.bg – and there are job adverts published on it. I have searched for a job position before and I knew they were mostly for cooks and cleaners. I decided to wait. For me, that was a possible solution but it was more of a last resort. I went to that website once more and found a job advert for an Operator of an Embroidery machine. I stopped searching and started learning more about the company, the kind of machines you operate with. I understood it is an international company. And of course, I knew that my CV said that I am a Russian language teacher. I knew that it would be absolutely fantastic if Kingly hire me. However, I needed to keep trying.

I wrote the cover letter in English and attached the CV in Bulgarian. On a Sunday around 6 a.m. I received a response and it said: We want to meet you. It was absolutely amazing. Still, I thought I should not get my hopes up. It is just amazing enough that this international, progressive company wanted to see me. I met the HR manager, the CEO Rob Armour and a few people from the Garment production team. Rob wanted to hear my story. It was the first time I spoke Bulgarian formally. I explained that my mother was a professional tailor, I was interested in her craft and at some point started creating puppets. They were always needed for different shows so I made new puppets – characters from cartoons or linked to stories from Ukrainian authors. One time I also made an entire costume for the main character on “Kingsley’s Meadow” who was on TV telling children’s stories.

What kind of materials did you use for the puppets?

I used furniture foam for thickness, I made patterns and I glued them together. For the mascot, I used scissors for carving and glued some layers. After dedicating 20 years to that craft, I decided to stop because the glues I used were very strong and were affecting my health. I think embroidery is much more ecological. I talked about these experiences and Rob asked me if I have passion. I knew he had something in mind but he didn’t tell me what it was.

On my first day here, I started packing children’s socks – absolutely amazing. I understood that the group of people working here are very friendly. They excepted me at once. They help me a lot. They did not push me away. They always invite me to join them and are always helpful. Personally, I understood that this place is very good for me. I feel very comfortable. When we received an embroidery machine, I started learning how to assemble it, maintain it and work with it. I did not know how to make files. I saw the program on the computer but I did not understand how it works.

I needed this experience, I needed to learn how the program would look on real fabric. It was not so easy because I needed to think quickly and see the result quickly. Every time it was better and better. I understood many details even though I made a lot of mistakes. Every mistake gave me some knowledge. I am absolutely impressed that these experiences came to me so fast. For me, it is like painting with different tools, in a different way. And if it sparkling, it is like making jewelry. Interestingly, all of my 4 children have some kind of talent. They learn languages very easily. They are creative people, even though only 2 of them are left-handed.

What happened to your husband and children after the invasion? You mentioned you crossed the Bulgarian border with your youngest daughter on foot.

My husband is still in Kyiv. I came back to Ukraine in September last year. Then I stayed there for a month in December. My husband is just waiting and hoping that the war will soon be over. He will be able to join us when he is 60 years old, that’s next year.

My oldest daughter and her family managed to leave Ukraine. They have 3 children and are staying with friends abroad. My 2 sons are independent – they are 23 and 27 of age. Both of them were already working in Europe when the invasion started. And my youngest daughter and I crossed the Bulgarian border together. She is 17 now. One of my sons told me that there are volunteers from Bulgaria that help people transfer to Sofia. We didn’t know what would happen. We just took a seat on a bus. It is an absolutely fantastic story. My son is able to rent an apartment and now I would help him because I have the possibility to earn money. It is absolutely amazing. I am excited about that.

Do you think that this war will end soon? Is that the world you would choose to describe what is going on?

All I know is that we had to leave fast. We live on the left side of Kyiv which is split by Dnipro. I was absolutely sure that the first fight will be on the left side, at Boryspil Airport. I was absolutely shocked when I learned that it started on the right side, in Gostomel airport. I was scared that bridges will be destroyed and we wouldn’t be able to leave. It is the easiest infrastructure to damage over Dnipro. That is why we jumped in the car and left. And while we were on a bridge, I called my son. We found out that the roads to Poland and Warsaw were far more dangerous.

In our family, in our society, we call what is happening a war. Politically, we could name it in any other way. But logically, naturally, it is a battle in which many people are killing each other. It is like what happened in Second World War. Politicians were responsible for that. Of course, I will not judge any of this. But when it comes to human values, it is a big crime.

Is your husband still living in your apartment in Kyiv?

Yes, now he is in our apartment. He came back last summer. For several months he lived East of Ukraine, then he went to his mother’s house, and then he came back to Kyiv. Now he is working with volunteers. Managing their trips. He is helping a lot. So we have a fascinating life. Unusual. But I am very happy that I am here. It is a very good place to develop, to help my family and my friends, my little society at home. My family took credit from the bank and we have the opportunity to continue paying the fee. The most important thing is that my daughter is safe and continuing her education. For me, it is a very good place with really nice people.

You mentioned some of the challenges you faced in the beginning. What is the most rewarding part of the job?

Yes, the most difficult part was to link a program with the actual stitches that I need to create. I had no real experience with this. I had to test many times and return to the computer again and again. One day I just sat at the computer all day long and didn’t understand anything. I was only making dots. It was really hard emotionally and physically.

The next morning, I told myself that I must continue because my other colleagues rely on me. I needed to continue working on this. I started from zero and every mistake gave me new knowledge. The most rewarding thing was when I understood how to impellent the programs. When I knew how to do that, I could do files in 5 minutes. It was a victory. The most difficult part was to get to that point.

What do you think about Rob’s ideas for going forward with garment production?

He is a very charismatic person. Of course, for everybody it is stressful but for the business, it is absolutely necessary. Having so many ideas and knowing how to do business is essential. Knowing the production process, the materials needed, and the art of creating socks, garments, and embroidery, is only half of what is required. Having energy and knowing how business works is necessary for a successful business. Rob has those skills, that is why I am sure that his ideas will all be implemented perfectly.

Is there anything else – besides embroidery – that you like to do in your spare time?

When I come home, I continue with handmade embroidery. (Laughing) I started learning the history of Ukrainian embroidery. There are some interesting materials. I am testing different kinds of hand embroidery. I am learning a lot of things that I didn’t know and I feel enriched. The art of handwork is universal.

* Bulgarians celebrate Liberation Day on 3 March, officially known as the Day of Liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Oppression.

Learn how Kingly contributed to the Bulgarian Red Cross‘ national campaign supporting victims of the conflict in Ukraine. Read more about Kingly’s team on the Blog section of our website. Follow us on LinkedInFacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube for more exciting projects, client testimonials and special offers.

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