Elzara Batalova fled Crimea after the Russian occupation in 2014 and left Ukraine entirely after the invasion in 2022.
Moving as a refugee to Cardrona seemed a world away from the life she was used to.
But after getting a job as a waitress at the Peebles Hydro Hotel, she came into contact with a group of musicians in Edinburgh.
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I have now been invited to give a special concert at the Usher Hall in the capital on Sunday, February 26, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion.
Elzara will join other Scottish and Ukrainian musicians, writers and poets who will come together in an act of remembrance and solidarity, honoring Ukraine’s sacrifice and celebrating the extraordinary courage and defiance of Ukraine and its people.
Scotland’s colleges have been instrumental in helping Ukrainian refugees build their homes away from their homelands, and learning English is a vital first step to integrating into society.
Elzara is currently studying National English 2 on an ESOL course run by Borders College.
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Studying English gave her the confidence to appear on national television and radio to talk about how the invasion of her homeland negatively affected her career in the film industry.
Coming to Scotland was intimidating at first, but she soon settled in and had positive relationships within the community.
Speaking about her experience at Borders College, Elzara said: “I would like to thank Borders College for the wonderful educational English courses for Ukrainians.
“Thanks to these courses and our teacher Tosca Oldfield, we can integrate into society, understand others and feel safe.
“My English is much better, thanks to Tosca College and Borders.”
Borders College, in partnership with Scottish Borders Community and Development, offers English language classes for adults living in the area for whom English is not their first language.
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