A Ukrainian-born North West solicitor has said her work helping those escaping Russia's invasion by process a select number of asylum applications free of charge is her "duty" after her own family had to leave their country to avoid the bombing.
Iryna O’Reilly, who works for Barings Law in Manchester, is also using her own negative experience of the immigration system, which cost her a "dream job" six years ago, to make the process simpler for those seeking a better life in the UK.
Having lived in England for over 20 years, Iryna got her law degree from the University of Manchester in 2010 and went on to qualify as a solicitor.
Her own immigration application was made while working for Manchester-based Carter Law Solicitors in 2016, where she needed a spouse visa to start a new role, but due to delays processing it, she had to turn the opportunity down.
Now at Barings Law, she’s spoken of her pain at seeing the desperate situation back home and wants to help Ukrainian nationals seeking asylum on a pro bono basis, which will be assessed case-by-case.
"The personal struggles I faced while building my life and career in the UK, have shaped who I am as a person and solicitor," said Iryna. "I always approach a case or a situation with compassion, understanding and fairness.
"I’m very thankful to Barings Law, who’ve given me opportunities I could never have imagined.
"I’m also delighted that the firm is setting up an immigration department and that we are focusing on those who need our help and assistance the most.
"A year on, and we must not look back at the war with acceptance. It’s shaken Ukraine politically, economically, and on a humanitarian level and I know the challenges many Ukrainians have been facing."
Iryna, who is also a qualified barrister since completing the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), explains what it’s like seeing the country she grew up in, be demolished.
"It’s heart-wrenching watching the news to see places I used to go absolutely destroyed," she said.
"My family had to flee Ukraine last year and have not been able to return back home. My 10-year-old goddaughter and her family had to escape to a neighbouring village and hide in a cellar while sirens were going off.
"With thousands of people displaced, families losing their loved ones or having to flee the war zone, I personally feel that it is my duty as a Ukrainian to assist those in need especially with legal paperwork which many will find difficult in a foreign language.
"As a Ukrainian-speaking solicitor practicing in a progressive law firm, I feel that Barings can have an immensely positive impact on many Ukrainian lives by offering them help and assistance as they rebuild."