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Ukrainian nursery school teacher starts work in Medway after moving to Bearsted

A young Ukrainian nursery school teacher who fled to safety has settled in at a new home and begun a job.

Less than a week after travelling more than 1,700 miles across Europe, Mariia Osadets is living with a host family and teaching tots in Wayfield near Chatham.

Mariia enjoying time with the children

The 21-year-old has been thrown a lifeline by mum-of-four Laura Hollands who runs the Hedgehogs pre-school group.

Laura contacted Mariia, whose parents have both died, online after seeing she had a degree in early years education at a university in Odessa.

Her two older sisters, whose husbands are fighting for their country, wanted her to take refuge in the UK while they relocated to a village in their homeland.

Laura said: "She was very scared and tearful when I picked her up from Gatwick. But she has adapted so well.

"She has never left Ukraine before, let alone travelled so far alone.

Mariia is a natural in the classroom
Mariia is a natural in the classroom

"But she is a natural with the children and she is learning English online.

"With play there's no barrier. Play is the language."

Laura, husband Gary and children Joe, 18, Ellie, 16, Jude, 10, and Kurt, three, wanted to help after seeing the plight of the Ukranians in the media.

Mariia will be staying at their home in Bearsted for at least a year and perhaps longer if the war continues wrecking the country's economy.

Laura added: "As a company we wanted to do something and also as a family.

Mariia (left) with Hedgehogs' staff Molly Poynter and Clare Waters
Mariia (left) with Hedgehogs' staff Molly Poynter and Clare Waters

"At first she did not know how the children would take to her, but they have made her feel very welcome.

"She is worried about her sisters, and keeps in touch with what's going on by following the president on Instagram."

Her children prepared a welcome pack of sweets, chocolates, candles and fluffy socks and daughter Ellie has shown her around Maidstone.

Laura said: "She has made us some Ukrainian meals, like beetroot soup, which was amazing.

"She is keen to work and can't do it back home, so she is doing it here."

Eve Poynter (left) and Laura Hollands
Eve Poynter (left) and Laura Hollands

Mariia, who is working at the Hedgehogs pre-school in Street End Road, said: "Back in Ukraine, I chose for myself such a noble profession of educator.

"To love children, to love them just like that, for nothing, to give them any moment, a piece of your heart, without compromises and conditions.

"Children respond with reciprocity and understanding, and I really like that. It all starts with love.

"There are two things that cannot be spared for children – it's love and your time.

"And even the fact that I have a poor command of English does not prevent me from finding a common language with the children, because looking into their sincere eyes you understand what they need.

The Hedgehogs nursery had plans to move into the former Green Lion pub in Rainham
The Hedgehogs nursery had plans to move into the former Green Lion pub in Rainham

"I am grateful to have been accepted into the friendly team."

Team leader at the Wayfield school, Molly Poynter, said Mariia had a "natural" way with youngsters.

"The children have been so excited to meet Mariia and show her all the wonderful things they can do," she said.

Laura and business partner Eve Poynter have nurseries, including a forest school, which focuses on outdoor play, in Hemptead, Chatham and Rochester.

A plan to take over the former Green Lion pub in Rainham High Street for another pre-school fell through last year.

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