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An inspiring voice for the Lithuanian community

From Lithuania to Peterborough, Snieguolė Maliavskaja shares her journey with Peterborough Matters and how she feels at home in our city while helping its diverse communities.
Snieguolė Maliavskaja talks about being the 'voice' for the Lithuanian community in Peterborough (Picture: Snieguolė Maliavskaja)

Snieguolė - otherwise known as Snow - started a new life with her husband and her 16-year-old daughter in Peterborough four years ago. Her older one, who is 22, lives in Lithuania. 

Since moving to the city, she has worked in the retail industry including the Amazon warehouse while also picking up shifts in other departments. 

Already fluent in Russian, Lithuanian and Polish, Snow joined English language classes and for the last two years, she has been working as an interpreter in the hospital, social care and even schools in the city. 

Realizing that language is a huge barrier for her community, Snow began helping out people with their settled status documents, benefit advice and support in filling out other official forms, without any charges. The word got around which helped snow integrate and make social contact within the Lithuanian community with nearly 8000 members in Peterborough. 

Snow has been very busy during the lockdown, supporting the struggling families from the Lithuanian community and also offering assistance to domestic abuse victims. 

In-fact, Snow is working with the police and other authorities on upcoming domestic violence-related projects to help victims who face challenges to report crime, get the appropriate support. 

Snow wants to bring the interests of the 8000 Lithuanian population living in the city to the forefront. 

She has shared her journey with Peterborough Matters:  “It has been four years since we started living in Peterborough. It has been a very interesting journey so far. It took me a little time to find social contacts in the community. But I started learning English and began helping people with their documents and official forms. I still do that if anyone needs help with their settled status, especially as time is now running out. 

“Both my husband and I starting working after moving here. I picked dual shifts in the retail industry and my husband is a lorry driver.  

“I have enjoyed interacting with the diverse communities Peterborough has to offer. We used to live in Lincoln Road and it’s such a vibrant place - there are same really nice people there. 

“Lockdown has showed the different challenges Lithuanian people have faced. I would say more than 50% of them have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. A lot of that community works on contract jobs in construction, retail, care, factories. It has a big impact on them unfortunately and then these families struggled with groceries and other needs. 

“I have been busy in the lockdown, working with other charities and authorities delivering food packages, groceries. The women from Let’s make a difference were amazing, providing hot meals everyday. 

“I asked Jawaid Khan from the council (community officer) if he needed my help to reach out to the community people, and since then, I have been very busy- from food to universal credit support, I have tried to assist in a number of ways. 

"Members of the community joined in too, including Lithuanian restaurants and shops were gifting some hot or long-lasting food, two families baked some pies for children. So, it was nice to see everyone chip in. 

“I could see the smile on people’s faces when I would take them stuff - It was a great feeling and I am so glad I am able to help.  

“I do want to say a big thank you to the council, to community groups and charity and government for helping these families. 

“Domestic violence has also been a real concern for the community as well in lockdown. I helped translate and signpost three victims as well. I am helping authorities by translating the materials into Lithuanian and Russian languages that can help victims. 

“We have actually received £3,000 funding which we spent on psychological help for children, mental health referrals, food packages and meals among other things. 

“I really enjoy helping people in the community. They do face a lot of barriers, biggest being the language and I am trying to see where and how I can bridge them. I think it’s the best reward to be able to help people.” 

Mum-to-be Snow has recently-launched her events business. Talking about her new venture, she said: “It’s exciting. Not the best time for it though. But we have organised some birthday parties so far. But I have had to take it one day at a time, as I am pregnant.” 

UCP has many students from Lithuania, Poland and Romania as well as all across Europe, and If EU students start a business or computing degree this January they will still be able to apply for student finances before any changes from Brexit come into effect.

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