Three months ago, Ella Bodnar packed her belongings and fled her home in Ukraine, not knowing when – or if – she might return.
Amongst her luggage was a brand-new sketchbook and the imaginative drawings she has created since arriving in the UK have helped earn her a place at the University of Bradford.
The 18-year-old, who is aiming for a career designing computer games, arranged for herself, her mother, and younger brother to come to the UK via the Homes for Ukraine scheme. They arrived in July and have been living in Bratton, Wiltshire, thanks to the kindness of their sponsors, Russ and Kathy McAnulla.
Ella’s father stayed in Ukraine to help with the war effort, and her grandparents remained in the family’s home in Pokrovsk, in the eastern Donetsk region of the country, which has suffered shelling in recent weeks.
Russ and Kathy have formed a lovely bond with the family and were so impressed with Ella’s sketches, they set about getting her a place on the BA Graphics for Games degree, one of only a handful of its kind in the country.
The family has an affection for Bradford as Russ and Kathy’s youngest child studied electrical engineering at the University in the late 1990s. Their daughter was already living in Cleckheaton at the time and they both went on to progress their careers at Bradford Technologies (BTL Ltd), a global provider of assessment services and technology.
Russ said: “I’m a big believer that young people should be independent and when we saw Ella’s drawings, we were so bowled over, we knew we had to help get her onto the best possible course.
“From the minute I contacted the University of Bradford, everyone has been so helpful. They have pulled out all the stops to get her here.”
It has been a team effort at the University of Bradford, involving Associate Director of Outreach, Recruitment and Marketing, Claire Pryke, Student Life Adviser Sam Webb, who dealt with Ella’s student finance and Dr Fin Caton-Rose, who interviewed Ella.
Dr Fin Caton-Rose said: “When I spoke to Ella, her passion for games and for developing a career in the games industry shone through. She’s clearly a talented artist, but it was her enthusiasm that really sold me.”
Nigel Futter, the University’s Outreach and Recruitment Officer, has worked tirelessly to get Ella onto the course and met her on campus to welcome her. He said: “It’s been a very steep learning curve but once we got everything up and running, it all happened very quickly. We managed to go back to Ella with an offer of a place within 48 hours of that initial call. We’re absolutely thrilled to be able to help.”