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Migrants fashion themselves new careers in Italian design

1 min

Less than two years ago, 35-year-old Yuliia Dobrohurska was fearing for her life under the threat of Russian bombings in her Ukrainian hometown of Konotop.

Political migrant from Gambia and jewelry designer Ousman Thorp salutes the audience at the end of their Refugees Live Fashion Show in Rome, Italy, January 20, 2024. Reuters/Remo Casilli

Less than two years ago, 35-year-old Yuliia Dobrohurska was fearing for her life under the threat of Russian bombings in her Ukrainian hometown of Konotop.

Now she is dreaming of a career as a fashion jeweller in Italy, the country where she has taken refuge.

Dobrohurska wore some of her creations on Saturday as she walked down the catwalk of the "Refugees live fashion show", organised by a Rome health authority, alongside professional models.

The event, which presented eight outfits and matching jewellery made by refugees, concluded a six-month course for 19 women and men who escaped war, violence and human rights violations, and now aspire to become fashion designers.

Flush with her success, Dobrohurska sees boundless opportunities opening up before her.

"I can't imagine what I can't make and what I can't do here in Italy," she told Reuters.

During the course organised by the Maiani fashion academy in Rome, she learned engraving, wax casting and embossing techniques to make jewellery.

She will now start an apprenticeship at a jeweller's in the Italian capital.

The Maiani academy is part of a network of 110 organisations which use the motto "culture is health" to promote the integration into employment of asylum seekers and refugees from 95 countries through arts and crafts.

While a career in high fashion may be a glittering final goal, the courses were above all an opportunity for the migrants to integrate into Italian culture and learn the language while seeking an outlet for their talents.

Saturday offered the chance to "showcase the beauty of these products made, designed and produced by the refugees", said Giancarlo Santone, a psychiatrist who works with the Rome health department that organised the event.

"We are really pleased because we have seen the results on the health of these people who are victims of war and extreme violence," he added.

"The benefits are really remarkable."

Reporting by Remo Casilli and Alessandro Parodi

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