• IOM Moldova - Media and Communications Unit

The story of Angela and Anastasia, Ukrainian sisters living in the Republic of Moldova after fleeing the war, who fulfilled their wish to open a beauty salon thanks to the IOM Livelihoods Program and the support of their grandmother.

Comrat, Moldova.

Anastasia worked in two different beauty salons in Odesa, and occasionally babysat to make ends meet. Her meeting with a friend, an eyebrow specialist, marked the beginning of a new interest which then became a passion and a profession.

Her sister, Angela, has always dreamed of being a hairdresser since she was a child. She never shelved this aspiration of hers ever since her specialist studies in hairdressing. 

On February 24, 2022, the two sisters get into a car under the Odessa sky lit by the explosions and Russian missiles and headed towards the borders of Moldova together with their mother, their 14-year-old sister, and Angela's 11-year-old daughter.

“At the beginning it was not easy to overcome local mistrust. When they looked for a job in local beauty salons, no one seemed to want to rely on two Ukrainian refugee girls who had just fled a war.”

“My car had broken down - says Angela - and under the bombings and gunfire I was desperately looking for a necessary component for my car. It was like being on a battlefield. In the exasperated search I found a man who had the missing piece of the machine. The night of the next day, 25 February, we left for the Transnistria region hoping that there would be fewer queues at the border. There, a customs policeman with a gun in his hand yelled at us to turn back for fear of a possible attack, and so we had to go home at night as the soldiers on the street kept stopping us and asking us what we were doing out and about after curfew".

On 26 February, they finally managed to reach Comrat, in the Moldavian region of Gagauzia, where their grandmother has been living for years. “We didn't want to go anywhere else far away from her as she’s living alone. We feel safe and in peace when we are all together.”

Anastasia and Angela with their grandmother- Photo IOM/Gabriela Crudu

“We have the grandmother's garden where we grow fruit and vegetables and raise chickens. Above all, we feel safe and in peace when we are all together.”

As soon as they arrived in Comrat, they were faced with an even bigger challenge than finding a safe place: starting from scratch in Moldova all over again.

At the beginning it was not easy to overcome local mistrust. When they looked for a job in local beauty salons, no one seemed to want to rely on two Ukrainian refugee girls who had just fled a war. “You start working, and when customers become attached to you, you go back to Ukraine”.

Why then not try to open a micro-entrepreneurial activity? The dream of opening a beauty salon materialized in their thoughts, but finding someone willing to rent out their own premises to two Ukrainian girls who have just arrived in Moldova seemed an almost insurmountable obstacle.

One day, in the Comrat Townhall, they met a team of psychologists, lawyers, and social workers who had come to meet Ukrainian refugees. They started distributing a questionnaire titled, 'Would you like to open a business in Moldova and what kind of business exactly?' "It seemed like an incredible coincidence to me!", says Anastasia.

Soon after filling out the form with their beauty salon ideas, Anastasia was contacted by the International Organization for Migration in Republic of Moldova.

The IOM team encouraged them to participate in the upcoming grant competition.  "It was our challenge, a beauty salon run only by us. I said to my younger sister, Nastea, 'let's risk it! We are doing something we love, and people demand. We are sure that we will not die of hunger.’" 

The challenge was accepted, but not easy to win. Although the financial support could only cover half of the start-up costs of their salon, nothing could now break the determination of the two sisters and their family.

Thus, in January 2023, with the assistance of IOM Moldova’s Livelihoods Team and thanks to financial support from the United States Bureau for Population, Refugee, and Migration, their beauty salon was born.


They named it "Dusha", which means "soul" in Ukrainian. 

The salon has been open and running for six months already. The best way to do marketing is by word of mouth and gain the trust of the host community. Despite the initial mistrust, Anastasia and Angela never felt discriminated against as Ukrainians or as women. "Gender issues? Are you kidding? Men come here to get manicures! Men's desire to take care of their hands is underestimated."

This is the soul of Angela and Anastasia. This is the "Soul", their beauty salon.

SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
SDG 5 - Gender Equality
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities