- Please tell us a bit about you, what is your story?
My name is Aliona and I am a photographer. I left my hometown Kyiv when I was 17 yo to get better education and career opportunities. I was studying abroad, working in fashion editorial in Geneva, and now I am doing fine art in San Francisco and represented by a local gallery. For 20 years that I live abroad, I kept strong connection to Kyiv, and the last 5 years was able to give back and educate a group of photographers there about both creative and business side of the job.
- Tell us about your experience with the war - what happened for you?
Because I knew a lot of people both in Kyiv and in Europe, I saw my first task as being a connector for the people who wished to evacuate. I also tried to translate and provide useful materials about how to handle severe stress. Even though I was doing my best, I was shocked how limited my resources was in time of horror and grief. Later on, I made it my mission to use my platform in the US to tell real stories of real people finding their pass in times of war.
On a personal level, my parents are in Kyiv by choice and my brother's family decided to evacuate as they have 2 small children. My husband's family evacuated first, but are back and forward now between Kyiv and Riga. The fear for lives of the family, friends and students is present in every hour of my life.
- Tell us about the photoshoot - what does it capture for you?
During the first and scarriest days of the war, when there was literally fights on the streets of Kyiv and russists almost took a suburban military airport, my thoughts of what's going to happen were very dark. I thought we are going to loose everything we built through 30 years of independence and we will be used as pawns in further war.
When Kyiv stood, weeks and months later, I started to feel hopeful about our future, but seeing russisit's atrocities in Mariupol, Bucha, Izum and other towns and lands, made me painfully aware of the price that other people pay for this newfound hope.
- If people want to help Ukraine, what would be the most effective way now in your experience?
We are going through a very hard winter now. As russists continue to suck on the battlefield, they try to compensate by assaulting civilians on remaining captured territories as well as trying to weaken our people and economy by ruining the infrastructure.
Our goal right now should be warming up the Ukraine. Be it a soldier in trenches or a mother with a small child in a cold apartment, we need to help getting them what they need to keep fighting. I know we don't have a lot of spare money now with the state of the economy, but even 5 or 10 dollars can do a lot more in Ukraine than buy a Starbucks coffee for two :)
Also, not victimizing Ukrainians in the story about russia, but seeing us as survivors in Ukraine-centred vision is very helpful for the people who are now going through this struggle. And for the newly arrived - please put a small Ukrainian flag sticker on your fence, it's does a ton for them to feel welcomed :)