Liliia Ilkevych

Liliia Ilkevych

I’m from Ukraine. I want to share my success story with other women who are afraid, hesitant to start something new in a foreign country.

They think that they have a bad language level, they are worse than the local people, they are alone with children, without support, they don’t have enough money to move faster and have more choices. They look for reasons why not, but they do not look for the possibility of why yes. I want to convince them that even without a perfect knowledge of the language and without a lot of money, it is possible to succeed in a new country, in new conditions. Even living in a village – absolutely everything is possible if you want it and set a goal!

I was born in 1982. My childhood was spent in a small village in the West of Ukraine. In 2000, I entered the Kyiv National University of Trade and Economics. Since then, I have lived in Kyiv permanently. In 2006, I received a master’s degree in finance and started working in the branch UKRSIBBANK BNP Paribas. I worked at this bank for 16 years, until July 2022, and I built a fairly successful career – from an ordinary branch specialist to the head of the first remote service branch of a premium client bank with a staff of 30 people. Each of my divisions in the bank, where I was a manager, were for me, like my own business, which I developed and made more profitable. However, I always wanted to create my own business, it was my dream and goal. Therefore, the last 4 years before the start of the war, I began to actively study the travel industry. My friend in Ukraine, Yana Karpenko, had a travel agency and I actively helped her in recruiting and training staff, financial planning, marketing, etc. It took up all my free time – all evenings and weekends.

February 24, 2022, became the most terrible day in my life – the war began in my native country. Worried about the lives of my two daughters (10 and 20 years old) I had to leave my homeland in June 2022. At the age of 39, I was forced to start my life over… alone, without a husband, with two children, in a foreign country, the United Kingdom, 2,000 kilometres from home, without knowledge of the English language, without large savings.

I am very proud that I will finally be able to help other Ukrainians who moved to the UK because of the war.

We came to the UK on June 13, 2022, under the Homes for Ukraine program, and I am very grateful for the support of our host family, as well as the families who helped and supported us all the time. These people gave me and my daughters a home, helped me learn English, taught me how to drive a car.

I faced 2 challenges:

  1. to learn English in order to understand others.
  2. to learn how to earn a living.

Without the ability to talk with others, it is impossible to make a living. Therefore, I began to actively study English. Every day for several hours. I used all the opportunities I found – the Dualingo application, attended a school for adults, found free zoom courses. I am happy that I managed to take part in the STEP program, which was developed in the UK to support refugees from different countries and is funded by the government. 10 weeks of daily English for 2.5 hours with homework – it improved my English a lot, and it was already business English from the best English language school British Council and absolutely free. I thank the British government for such support.

I decided to start a new life in a new country by starting my own business. After an unsuccessful attempt to get a job as a salesperson-administrator in a SPA centre, I decided to create my own company, in order to further help other Ukrainians, realize themselves by hiring them. I decided to found a travel company for a customer – Ukrainian who, like me, moved to the UK because of the war and is also learning the language and finds it difficult to use the services of English-speaking British companies. It was a big risk, but it was my dream and I decided that I had to realise it. I didn’t have time to do this in Ukraine, but I decided that dreams must come true. I studied the language and at the same time I read a lot and researched British legislation on tourism and bookkeeping. It was difficult because of the language barrier and the peculiarities of the tourist market in Britain. This is a regulated market. I, like many Ukrainians in the UK, was registered at the Job Centre at that time. It was from them that I learned about the Restart program, which is designed for those who need help to start working. It was my coach Richard Bowley within this program who was my guide in my first business steps.

In December 2022, I started cooperating with one of the British travel companies. It was then that the Fly&Joy brand appeared. Later, I found new partners in Britain, and in February 2024, my company was accepted into the British family of travel companies of the Travel Trust Association. On March 28, 2024, an article about my way and my business in the UK was published in Travel weekly, a well-known magazine in the British travel industry, next to news from TUI, Celebrity Cruises, etc. Now the level of my company allows me to start hiring staff – Ukrainians who worked in Ukraine as travel managers and want to return to this field but cannot because of the language barrier.

The British travel market is complex and regulated. Customers trust only certified specialists who can ensure a safe travelling. The travel company must issue the tourist with an ATOL certificate for each travelling, and the company must also be a member of one of the UK’s travel associations to ensure that a trust account scheme is in place, where a third party controls what the tourists’ money is spent on and that person makes sure that these the funds were sent exclusively to the service provider and not spent on the current needs of my company. You can find out how the protection of my client’s rights in the UK was implemented at this link. In the previous post I talked about my way to the top. It took me a little over a year. Now Fly&Joy is an online travel agency that already has 10,000 followers on social networks. These are Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, WhatsApp. We have applied to the Civil Aviation Authority for a tour operator license in the UK market. We are already reviewing candidates for employment and developing an employment contract. We are also working on our website. Next, we are going to develop the agency network for holiday sales. And I am very proud that I will finally be able to help other Ukrainians who moved to the UK because of the war. I hope that I will be able to issue a sponsorship license for the company in the future, so as to resolve any visa issues for my employees, if any.

Fly&Joy social media pages:




In conclusions, this is my real story. Despite the fact that I came to the UK fleeing the war in Ukraine in search of a safe place to live, without planning anything in advance, with little savings and 2 suitcases, I was able to realize my dream. And everyone can! The main thing is to do, not just dream and not be afraid to take risks sometimes

Pioneer 20 2024 - Top 20 refugee women in the EU

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