Eugenia Dubinova is a Ukrainian model who was born and raised in the city of Kyiv. She has recently returned from New York Fashion Week and is presently staying in a bomb shelter in her hometown of Kyiv, where the city is under attack by Russian forces acting on the instructions of President Vladimir Putin. Dubinova has been hearing explosions in the adjacent area for the last week, and her lover, Eugene Slavnyi, has offered to protect the city center on her behalf. She has heard from friends about the bombing in the adjacent city of Kharkiv, which resulted in the deaths of innocent residents, as portrayed in the photographs below. She has also experienced firsthand the tenacity and fortitude of her fellow Ukrainians as they have faced an unparalleled barrage of opposition. Dubinova discusses her first impressions of the country—as well as why she remains optimistic about the future of her homeland.
I was born and raised in Kyiv, and I continue to reside in the city. I began modeling when I was sixteen years old. Working in the fashion industry, I want people to be aware of the situation in Ukraine. As a fashion model, I would want to see more fashion journalists and designers take an active role in the industry. While many individuals all across the globe are expressing their support for the cause, some designers aren’t even paying attention to what is going on. The current state of affairs is not just our concern. I’ve enlisted the assistance of designers. Recently, I emailed Kim Jones, and he responded by offering to assist my lover; the Rodarte sisters have been giving me a lot of emotional support assistance. My agency in Milan began gathering items to ship to Ukraine as soon as the season opened.
After New York Fashion Week, I flew back to Ukraine with my family. During my time in New York, I began reading news reports that airlines were about to cease flying to Ukraine, and I became really concerned. I had the impression that I needed to visit my relatives. If this [war] comes and I don’t get to see them and my lover, I’ll be quite disappointed in myself. When I returned home, on February 24, I awoke to a phone call from my father at 5 a.m. “Eugenia, have a look at the news,” he urged. When I unlocked my phone, I saw that Ukraine was being bombarded. I was horrified. It was a complete shock. My partner, Eugene, a journalist, and I live together in Kyiv, so we went to the shop to stock up on food and water since we didn’t know how long it would be until the power would go out.
We made the decision to stay with friends in the city center. We reasoned that no one would bomb the city center, which was logical at the time. The Russian president said he would never set foot on city grounds, which turned out to be a total fabrication. At first, you were filled with dread. You were completely clueless as to what was going on. I and my companions were in the area between the bomb shelter and our house when the bomb sirens sounded, signaling that we needed to evacuate. We were in the middle of nowhere. The next day, as I was in the bomb shelter and my boyfriend stayed at home to shower, he contacted me to say he needed to speak with me. “I don’t want to be here any longer,” he said. I have to travel to Ukraine in order to fight back. The thought of sitting motionless and waiting for anything to happen bothers me.” On January 25, he and his buddies embarked on a journey to defy the Ukrainian army. I felt like I had lost a piece of myself, but knowing that he was able to protect me made me love him even more.
[My buddies and I] were sleeping in the [underground] subway system on the 25th of the month. It was really difficult to spend ten hours in the bomb bunker, on the stone floor. Sleeping was a total and utter nightmare. It was really chilly. I began weeping since there were tiny children cuddling their toys in front of me. That tiny children are witnessing this is really distressing to me; they should be at school with their classmates and watching cartoons, but instead, they are sitting in bomb shelters, praying for their dads who are fighting to save Ukraine. On the 26th, we heard the first explosion, which occurred on the [outskirts of] Kyiv’s outskirts. On occasion, when they are doing large-scale explosions, the sky becomes bright crimson. Grad [missiles] are also sent by the Russian army, which is a large number of tiny rockets. Belarus is launching rockets against the United States. While in the bomb bunker, we wake up, read the news, and then go back to sleep again.
At first, people began to flee to Poland in large numbers. They began to bomb the highways and bridges, making it impossible for civilians to flee the area. Some of them did, in fact. However, I was adamant about not going anyplace since I hadn’t seen my parents in over a month. In a bomb bunker on the opposite side of the city, they’re also waiting for the end of the world. Our shelter is equipped with a toilet, running water, and power. Yoga mats are provided for sleeping, and you may construct a cushion out of old garments. It’s just myself and a buddy right now, but there may be up to 25 people here if the need arises. In the blink of an eye, the previous six days have seemed to have passed in a blur. I’m attempting to write some poems since creating art helps me to feel less anxious. Every hour, I’m on the phone with my folks. When they have spare time, they are now helping by feeding dogs; a lot of individuals have simply abandoned their animals. All of the metro stations that are underground serve as bomb shelters for the general public. Many of the homes that were constructed following World War II are equipped with bomb shelters as well. Some individuals in various cities may not have a safe haven in which to take refuge. Their homes have been destroyed. I watched a video the other day of a building in Kyiv being attacked, which was as follows: This was my house,’ a mother with a tiny three-year-old toddler remarked, referring to the location of her residence.
Due to the fact that the parliament and the president (Volodymyr Zelensky) are still in [Kyiv], our army is putting out every effort to rescue the city. Our president is regarded as a legend. I’m pleased that he’s serving as our president. He’s a hero, but he’s not getting enough sleep or eating correctly. He has appealed to every other leader on the globe to come to our aid. And he has no intention of leaving Kyiv. He’s wandering around outdoors to demonstrate to folks that he is no different from everyone else in this nation. He is not only living in the bomb shelters, but he is also staying in the fancy apartment. I am aware that Joe Biden welcomed him to the United States in order to be secure, but he refused, saying, “I will never do this because I love my country.” We are quite pleased with him. I’m quite happy to be of Ukrainian descent.
As soon as the curfew was lifted yesterday, individuals all around the nation began to offer their services as volunteers. It gave me a sense of security. Rather than merely waiting in their bomb shelters and fretting, people in the shelters are stepping up to aid everyone in Ukraine by volunteering and giving food to the Ukrainian army. As a result, we are more unified. One guy was carrying explosives in his empty arms and tossing them so that they exploded someplace else [away from the crowds]. People were just using their arms to dislodge tanks, without engaging in battle. This is the culture of Ukraine. They’re not scared at all. This group of people has a good heart and understands how to behave in this scenario.
We’re completely taken aback by how enthusiastic the whole globe has been about us. I had always assumed that if anything like this happened in Ukraine, no one would pay much attention to it, simply because Ukraine is not a very popular nation in the world. However, we have received a great deal of support and money from throughout the globe. Everyone in Ukraine is now aware that the Russian army has been defeated. We are aware that we need to step up our efforts a little bit. We have more armaments as a result of the assistance of every nation. We have the impression that we now possess more authority. We are well aware that we must take a position. My desire to be Russian, as well as my desire to live in Russia, are both mutually exclusive. Ukraine is where I wish to reside. I want to be able to live on our property with my family. It’s going to be over soon, and we’ll be able to enjoy the sun and the sky, as well as stroll about freely on the streets without fear of being shot or otherwise murdered by someone.
I’m not sure what’s going to happen the next day. Perhaps they will resort to a more aggressive tactic against us in the future. However, I believe that we have enough strength coming from all around the globe to put an end to this assault. Today, I’m certain that I’ll be here till the end. This is my nation, and I don’t want to see it fall apart, even if the circumstances are really difficult. It is my job to protect and defend my homeland. You get used to the explosions and know when to flee, but you must develop a philosophical perspective. Are you planning to flee or are you going to remain and protect yourself? It’s incredible that a little nation like ours can come out on top. We have the ability to win because we want to victory. We’re the ones with the balls.