A man standing near a pier, with three insert pictures of the man wakeboarding

I can't be silent. It's not the way

Serhii Titomyr from Ukraine tells us about settling in the UK, how things are going with his stammer at work, and what helps him relax.

My name is Serhii (or Sergey if it's easier), I'm 37, and I would like to share a bit of my story.

I'm originally from Odesa, Ukraine, and I have been living in Newark here in the UK since June 2022, when I came here under the 'Homes for Ukrainians' programme.

Stammering has been with me all my life. Sometimes I don't feel very confident because if it, but I'm trying to deal with it. I remember how it was at school. In early classes, some children really laughed at me and mocked me. Sometimes I had to fight back with them despite being very, very polite and peaceful. In the 1st or 2nd year I had really good marks for reading — until I developed my stammer. From then on reading or reciting poems by heart was not easy.

I sometimes struggled to say my name. The letters S and T were tricky. Even now I sometimes can't say my name immediately. But despite that I studied well and received good marks in my final classes. I thank the teachers who understood what it was like and didn't challenge me with things I would have struggled with. I made really good friends at school. School friendships are probably the strongest, and we’re still friends now.

Settling & working in the UK

I moved here with my girlfriend, who is now my wife as we got married here in the UK. I would say we're still settling :). As English isn't my native language I need to think more before I speak, which makes things more difficult with my stammer, but not impossible.

In the Ukraine I worked for 15 years at a logistics company and achieved some decent results. But a few months ago I got a job offer from a company here in the UK and decided to take it. A big thanks to my manager who noticed my stammer at the interview but still offered me this position. She mentioned that one of her relatives also stammers too.

As English isn't my native language I need to think more before I speak, which makes things more difficult with my stammer, but not impossible.

At the moment I'm trying to tame my stammer when I'm at work. New office, new people, new role, new nerves. I can't be silent. It's not the way. I try to do my best. When I stammer I can see that my colleagues probably feel a bit awkward, but they don't say anything to make me feel bad. The telephone scares the hell out of me. Probably mainly because I stammer more when I need to introduce myself. Sometimes the person on the other end thinks there's a bad line and hangs up. But I can't judge them on something they're not aware of. I think people and customers I work with will get used to it. I'll try not to focus on it too much.

I found the STAMMA site and read many of the stories in the Your Voice section. Reading about other peoples' experiences with stammering was all very, very familiar to me. Unfortunately there is no such community like STAMMA in Ukraine which can really help people who stammer. So when I found STAMMA I was really impressed.

What helps me

I try and deal with stammering by doing things to relax me like playing the guitar and singing, which is my main antistress. I like to play open mic evenings but I don't speak much to the audience, I just introduce myself and announce the songs. Wakeboarding is another activity that helps me. I've been doing it for 9 years — it's such a cool activity and I really enjoy it (as you can see from the picture!). I find sport basically cheers me up, helps with my breathing and makes me feel more relaxed afterwards.

On my life's path I have met people who have laughed at me, and those who didn't take me seriously when I spoke to them for the first time. But fortunately there were more people along the way who treated me with understanding, and I have made many really good friends. Especially through wakeboarding — I've met many cool people thanks to it. The international wakeboarding community is very friendly; community is so important.

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A speaker on stage at STAMMAFest 2023

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