Annika was born in a remote part of rural Estonia with an Estonian mum and a Russian father and one brother who is older than her. She spoke both languages from childhood. When she graduated from high school in 1997 Annika wanted to experience a different country and went to Germany to work as an au pair. Her first job was with a family with six children so no mean feat to begin.
Annika lived near Salzburg: “It was a bit like the Sound of Music with all those children!” and remembers it was very hard work plus she was extremely shy. Too shy to even ask for sugar in her tea, so she went without for a year!
She learned German in this year and then moved on to a position in Switzerland where she learned English as a part-time au pair. She returned to Estonia for a short while then went on to a two-year au pair job in France – yet another language to add to her fine collection of knowledge – and from there to Norway. Her employers then moved to work in London and invited Annika to travel with them as their au pair for three months, so in 2005 she found herself in London.
Annika met and married a Yorkshireman with whom she had a son in late 2006 but after three years their marriage broke up. Annika had to move out with a young baby but even though she is European, she has no right to any benefits as she has not worked in the UK for a minimum of 12 months. Housing has been a huge problem, she and her son have lived in three different places and are about to move into a fourth.
“Work is so important, I want to work as this is the only way forward.” A support agency recommended Annika tried the Create Potential Academy and she said she had no idea what to expect but has been happy to attend.
“Before the Academy, my only work experience was childcare so now I can have some retail and catering experience. This improves my chances for getting jobs now.”
As ever when you have a young pre-school age child to support alone, finding the childcare for herself, ironically, is always a real issue and an extra stress.
“I like learning anything new,” says Annika, “so I have enjoyed the new experiences within the Academy. I can’t sit about doing nothing when there’s so much to do. Just wish I had more time.”
Annika hopes she can pursue a career in one of the caring professions as a nurse or carer. She completed the 12-week Academy course and started work with Create’s external catering company in October 2010.