A UKRAINIAN singer, actor and TV presenter says that studying at the Borders College has been a life-changing experience.

Elzara Batalova fled Crimea following 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 connected with a group of musicians in Edinburgh.

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And she has now been invited to perform at a special concert at the capital’s Usher Hall on Sunday, February 26 to mark 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, paying respect to Ukraine’s sacrifices and celebrating the extraordinary courage and defiance of Ukraine and its people.

Scotland’s colleges have been instrumental in helping Ukrainian refugees build their home away from home, and learning the English language is a vital first step to them integrating within the community.

Elzara is currently studying National 2 English on the ESOL course, run by Borders College.

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And studying English gave her the confidence to appear on national TV and radio to talk about how the invasion of her home country had a negative impact on her showbiz career.

Coming to Scotland was a daunting prospect at first, but she soon settled in and has positive relationships within the community.

Talking about her experience at Borders College, Elzara said: “I want to thank Borders College for the amazing 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 has become much better, thanks to Tosca and Borders College.”

Borders College, in partnership with Scottish Borders Community and Development, offers English classes for adults living in the region for whom English is not the first language.