Daria Montague knows what it’s like to leave everything and everyone you love behind to try and find a better life.
At 18, Montague, who was born in Russia, fled to North America, eventually coming to Canada and claiming refugee status.
Having started life from scratch at such a young age and struggling for years to make it on the other side of the world, Montague says it was important to her to lend a helping hand to the young women who now find themselves in the same situation after the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops in February.
Montague, who owns rebel girl ink tattoo studio on Cedar Pointe Drive in Barrie, recently welcomed two Ukrainian tattoo artists to join its team, both of whom are expected to get to work in the coming weeks, she says.
Julia Liverinova, 25, left her home in Odessa, Ukraine, after an explosion hit a building next to her home. While she was able to find refuge outside of her home country, Liverinova says (with help from Montague who translated into English on her behalf) that leaving her family behind — including her younger brother with whom she is working to obtain a visa to join her in Canada — was definitely emotional. Both of her parents chose to stay in Ukraine to try to help.
Liverinova, who arrived in Canada on May 27, has been working as a tattoo artist for almost five years, she said, adding that she got into the art through an ex-boyfriend.
Liverinova says she has loved art since she was a child and studied art in Italy before becoming a tattoo artist. Tattooing is just another creative outlet, she adds.
“(I) see the tattoo as another instrument and I see a person as a canvas. It’s just another area of art that (I enjoy),” Liverinova says. “It’s not just an image on the skin, it vibrates and becomes a part of you. — it carries energy.
Julia Kholiavchuk left his home in Cherkasy, central Ukraine, on February 26, three days after the Russian invasion, and spent two months in Poland with his mother and grandparents before coming to Barrie to live with his aunt three weeks ago.
“I think it was (my mum’s) instinct that she just (picked me up) and said ‘come on’. It was hard because we couldn’t figure out how we (could) leave. “Ukraine. There was no transport, no buses, no cars. We used a train,” she says.
Kholiavchuk, who has been tattooing for three years, credited her grandfather for inspiring her to pursue an artistic life.
“In my childhood, I always looked at my grandfather’s drawing. I just wanted to do like my grandfather,” she says. “It’s a place where you can do whatever you want. I just tried it and loved it.
Montague says she’s been looking for an artist “like her or better” to join her team for two years, but has never found anyone who fits the bill.
Both Kholiavchuk and Liverinova bring their own unique strengths with them, which will make them a great addition to the studio, Montague says.
“They’re both very different and have very strong specialties that I can see from my perspective,” Montague says. “We all do the same job, but we’re all so different, and that’s exactly what a tattoo shop should be. — very different styles, energies and diversity.
“A lot of artists have come through these doors, but it takes chemistry. You need something special and these two are super talented. You can see when artists do it out of passion. These two arrived days apart and I was just sitting there (thinking) the stars were finally aligned,” she added.
Having the support of someone like Montague, who knows firsthand what he’s going through, means the world to both Kholiavchuk and Liverinova.
“You can be talented, you can do your job well, but it all depends on who you meet on your way. Immigrating is difficult. It’s hard to start from scratch in a new place,” says Liverinova. You can be the best artist, but it all depends on the universe and the people coming in, the stars and all that (putting together). — And that’s what happened.
“From the first day the war broke out, if it hadn’t been for people, foreigners, (I) wouldn’t be here,” Kholiavchuk says. “People who are just willing to step in and bring the right people together and then guide and mentor are all super important.”
Although it was over two decades ago, Montague will never forget the people who helped her along her own journey to start a new life in Canada.
“I went through a very difficult immigration process myself and I believe in having confidence that someone is going to (help you),” she says. “It’s about giving back. One day, 25 years ago, someone (lent) me a helping hand and since then I’ve been trying to give that energy back to people, especially women.
“It was hard to be here on my own. I was younger than them and I was doing all kinds of jobs. I didn’t have a passion like them, so they’re on the right track. They’re in good shape. advance on me. and it’s amazing.