Seamstress Alona Sapetova and her family fled the war in Ukraine and ended up in Härnösand in Västernorrland. There she works at a laundry and learns sign language in Swedish.
Shortly after Russia’s war against Ukraine began at the end of March 2022, Alona Sapetova fled to Sweden with her husband and their two children. Alona, who has been deaf since birth, lived in the capital Kyiv and the conditions were very difficult for her and her family. Since everyone in the family has severe hearing loss, they couldn’t hear when the air raid sirens sounded over the city or the bombs that fell around them. The situation became uncertain and untenable. They decided to get out of the city and with the help of the Ukrainian military and volunteers, the family made it out of the war-torn country and then to Sweden.
“I shouted ‘no’ when they told us to leave the country, but there was nothing else to do,” says Alona.
They ended up in Härnösand, where the municipality received 14 people from Ukraine, all with hearing impairments. To a large extent, this was due to Kristinaskolan, which is a school for the deaf. The municipality organises a course in schools where new arrivals can learn sign language in Swedish. Both Alona and her husband have jobs and the children can go to school.
In Ukraine, Alona worked as a seamstress and when she came to Härnösand, the municipality made use of her experience in textiles. She got a job at a municipal laundry that opened in April 2022. The laundry employs eight people from Sweden, Ukraine, Afghanistan and Eritrea. The laundry collects, washes and delivers laundry from seventeen different operations within the municipality, including work clothes, sheets and patients’ clothes from nursing homes, LSS homes, home care services and home health care, as well as families in need of relief. In the near future, they will change premises and expand.
At the laundry, Anita Åkerlund is a supervisor and she knows sign language, which makes it easier for Alona to learn sign language in Swedish and communicate with her colleagues. In order for colleagues to be able to learn sign language themselves, signs with simpler signs in sign language have been hung in the workplace.
“I really like it,” says Alona, who will be working at the laundry for another year.