Nfld. & Labrador

Different country, same scissors: Ukrainian barber 'crushing it' in St. John's

The hairdryer and hair clippers that Serhii Firsikov brought from Ukraine don’t plug in to the sockets at his new chair at Fogtown in downtown St. John's. But his scissors and combs — and his personal style — fit right in. 

Barber finds home and community — and a place to lay out his hair cutting tools — at Fogtown Barber

Serhii Firsikov flew to St. John's on May 9 aboard a plane that the Newfoundland and Labrador government chartered for Ukrainian refugees. (Caroline Hillier/CBC)

The hairdryer and hair clippers that Serhii Firsikov brought from Ukraine don't plug in to the sockets at his new chair at Fogtown Barber Shop in downtown St. John's. But his scissors and combs — and his personal style — fit right in. 

"Everyone has a lot of tattoos. [I like] such an atmosphere," said Firsikov.

On their first walk around downtown St. John's, Firsikov and his wife — who arrived in the city on May 9 aboard a flight the Newfoundland and Labrador government chartered for Ukrainian refugees — spotted the barber pole at the intersection of Water and Prescott streets. 

When he wandered in, he instantly loved what he saw. 

"I don't know in Canada, if you say something like this — in Ukraine or Poland, this has an underground vibe," said Firsikov. 

"I don't want to work in luxury place where everyone [is] dressing like a businessman."

'He's crushing 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" —  walked in.

After introducing himself as a Ukrainian barber looking for work, Chris's response was quick. "I said, 'Yeah, let's figure something out.'"

Firsikov finishes off Henry Porter's haircut at Fogtown Barber, a shop on Water Street in downtown St. John's. (Caroline Hillier/CBC)

Two days later, Firsikov was fully booked up for his first day on the job. 

"He's crushing it," said Evans. 

After posting about Fogtown's newest hire on social media, the reaction was overwhelming, he said.

"He can only do so many haircuts a day. But people are finding other ways to support him. They're tipping him — they're paying for haircuts they're not getting," said Evans. 

Firsikov's Instagram followers have more than doubled, and he's overwhelmed by the support — not only from Fogtown, but from people across Newfoundland and Labrador.

"We'll appreciate it all our life," he said.

WATCH | Serhii Firsikov talks about loving the vibe at his new chair at Fogtown Barber in downtown St. John's: 

How a Ukrainian refugee landed on his feet at a St. John's barber shop

4 months ago
Duration 2:00
​Serhii Firsikov ​is already fitting in at Fogtown Barber in downtown St. John's

'Happy customers'

Most of the hair-cutting trends in Europe and Canada are similar, but Firsikov has noticed there are more men with long hair in St. John's, which is exciting for him because it is "more complicated hairdressing" that comes with the chance to "make art."

He describes his barber style as on trend, with a heavy focus on texturizing. His main goal, though, is to make customers happy, and so far, he's been nailing that part of the job. 

Chris Evans, co-owner of Fogtown Barber, says Firsikov has been 'crushing it' since starting at the shop. (Caroline Hillier/CBC)

"I'm just letting him do whatever he's doing so whatever it comes out like is good," said James Kelly, one of Firsikov's first clients.

Henry Porter, whose mom 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 because he inherited curly hair from his mom.

"I'm happy that I got this haircut," he said. 

"I like that is really smooth and when I touch it, it feels really good." 

'Worst day in my life'

Firsikov and his wife were already in Poland before Russia invaded Ukraine, triggering a war that shocked the world. 

"It was a normal day as usual and my mom called me and said, 'The war has started,'" he said. "It was the worst day in my life because I'm afraid about my parents and my friends and a lot of people," said Firsikov. 

Firsikov reaches for his tools while cutting a client's hair at Fogtown Barber. (Caroline Hillier/CBC)

He considered going back to Ukraine to join the military, but instead decided to stay in Poland and help refugees get from the border into safety and find apartments. 

His priority is to make enough money in St. John's to send back to his family in Ukraine, whom he worries about every day. 

"Every day, my mom and dad call me in the morning," he said. "Most of all, I'm afraid I will have no call from parents."


LISTEN:  Serhii Firsikov describes finding a new place to work, soon after the Ukrainian refugee landed in St. John's:
Meet Fogtown's newest hire: A barber from Ukraine who is making St. John's look even cooler, one faux hawk at a time.

Video produced by John Pike

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Caroline Hillier is the producer of the St. John's Morning Show.

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