Escaping the conflict in Ukraine, photographer Mary Levykina embarks on a new chapter of life and career
WITH WAR RAGING in Odessa where she did a lot of her photography work, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict threatening to spill over the border into Russian-occupied Transnistria where she lived, Mary Levykina felt fortunate that she and her family were able to make their way to safety in Canada in early May.
According to the 43-year-old Levykina, since landing in London the biggest challenge “is that I have to start my life all over again at a fairly mature age.”
And a large part of that is rebuilding her photography business in a new country where she is unknown.
On the plus side, Levykina speaks English relatively fluently, although she describes herself as an introvert who finds it easier to connect with people through her photos than through conversation. “I love to observe, and I take pictures to capture the very essence of a person, the inner beauty,” she says.
“In Canada, things are very different, but the main difference is very open people who know how to enjoy life. This is something new for me, and it helps a lot to cope with difficulties” ―Mary Levykina
The host who is providing shelter while she, her husband, their 16-year-old son and 21-year-old daughter and her boyfriend get their bearings has been extremely supportive, and he has provided information and connections to help Levykina build a client base.
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“This became a good basis for starting my creative journey in a new country. I was lucky to meet such a person,” she says. “I also get help from like-mind people on social networks who are helping me figure out how the photography market works in Canada. They give me a lot of feedback and advice.”
Building a new business is not a new concept for Levykina. She studied journalism at university in Ukraine and initially worked in that field before finding herself drawn to photography. Mainly self-taught with some master classes under her belt, she hung out her shingle as a professional photographer 12 years ago, leading to work mainly in Odessa but also across Europe.
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Levykina knows it won’t be easy to build from square one yet again but has put out the word through social networks that she is willing to start anywhere to get a foothold in the Canadian market.
“I ask, ‘Do you need an assistant? Is there anything that I can help with?’ In Canada, things are very different, but the main difference is very open people who know how to enjoy life. This is something new for me, and it helps a lot to cope with difficulties.” Kym Wolfe