The hair dryer and clipper that Serhii Firsikov brought from Ukraine won’t plug into the outlets of his new chair at Fogtown Barber Shop in downtown St. John’s. But her scissors and combs — and her personal style — fit right in.
“Everyone has a lot of tattoos. [I like] such an atmosphere,” Firsikov said.
On their first walk through downtown St. John’s, Firsikov and his wife – who arrived in the city on May 9 on a flight chartered by the Newfoundland and Labrador government for refugees Ukrainians – spotted the barber pole at the intersection of Water and Prescott streets.
When he walked in, he immediately loved what he saw.
“I don’t know in Canada, if you say something like that – in Ukraine or Poland, it has an underground vibe,” Firsikov said.
“I don’t want to work in a fancy place where everyone [is] dress like a businessman.”
“He Crushes It”
Fogtown co-owner Chris Evans was sitting behind the desk on a rare break when Serhii Firsikov – who came to St John’s with a “bag of clothes and his [hair cutting] tools” – entered.
After introducing himself as a Ukrainian barber looking for a job, Chris’s response was quick. “I said, ‘Yeah, let’s try to figure something out. “”
Two days later, Firsikov was fully booked for his first day of work.
“He crushes it,” Evans said.
After posting Fogtown’s newest recruit on social media, the reaction was overwhelming, he said.
“He can only do so many haircuts a day. But people find other ways to support him. They tip him – they pay for haircuts they don’t get” , said Evans.
Firsikov’s Instagram following has more than doubled, and he’s been overwhelmed with support, not just from Fogtown, but from Newfoundland and Labrador as well.
“We will enjoy it all our lives,” he said.
Most haircut trends in Europe and Canada are similar, but Firsikov has noticed that there are more men with long hair in St. John’s, which is exciting for him because it’s ” a more complicated hairstyle” that comes with the chance to “make art.”
He describes his barbering style as trendy, with a heavy emphasis on texturing. His main goal, however, is to make customers happy, and so far he’s nailed that part of the job.
“I let him do what he does, so whatever happens is good,” said James Kelly, one of Firsikov’s first clients.
Henry Porter, whose mother made an appointment for him after hearing about the Ukrainian barber, is excited to show off his new hairstyle at school. His hair grows fast, he explained, and it’s difficult to cut it because he inherited curly hair from his mother.
“I’m glad I got that haircut,” he said.
“I like that it’s really soft and when I touch it, it feels really good.”
“The worst day of my life”
Firsikov and his wife were already in Poland before Russia invaded Ukraine, starting a war that shocked the world.
“It was a normal day as usual and my mum called me and said, ‘The war has started,'” he said. “It was the worst day of my life because I’m scared for my parents, my friends and a lot of people,” Firsikov said.
He considered returning to Ukraine to join the army, but instead decided to stay in Poland and help refugees cross the border to safety and find apartments.
His priority is to earn enough money in St. John’s to send him back to his family in Ukraine, which he worries about every day.
“Every day my mom and dad call me in the morning,” he said. “Above all, I’m afraid of not receiving a call from the parents.”
Midsummer morning show7:38Ukrainian barber
Video directed by John Pike
Learn more about CBC Newfoundland and Labrador