While studying marketing and working towards her Bachelor’s degree, which she was set to complete this year, Anastasiia built up a portfolio working with local Ukrainian and International brands.
“Last month I was working at creating a visual content agency to work with beauty studios and personal beauty brands,” Anastasiia shared with me via Instagram DM. “We are the first in Ukraine. The market is free. I gathered a team and worked on marketing a lot,” she said.
Then added, “Before the war.”
A few weeks before fighting broke out in Kyiv, Anastasiia bought tickets to visit a friend in Alanya, Turkey.
“About 14-16 of February I was thinking whether to fly or not to fly because I understood that something is happening in Ukraine and it is dangerous,” she said. “My parents were angry and said not to go. To stay in Ukraine. It is dangerous to fly over the Black Sea because they had information that Russian soldiers have some trainings about the Black Sea.”
But Anastasiia insisted and flew to Turkey on February 19th. “I had a few good days here. But one morning I woke up, opened Instagram and saw stories everywhere that there is an emergency situation in Ukraine and it is a war and rockets are flying,” she shared via voice memo.
“On 24th of February my mother called me and said that all my family, children 2, 8, 15 and 17 years old – so four children, five adults, a cat and a dog are going into one small car to one of our granny’s to the deep deep village to the West of Ukraine.”
“All are very frightened, afraid of what is happening, in panic. Children are crying. The roads were full of cars. And they just prayed that they will reach that village because rockets are everywhere.”
Meanwhile, many of her friends and colleagues remained in Kyiv, sharing photos and messages in chats. “Almost all are in bomb shelters. All the discussions are like, “Are you ok? Are you ok? Are you ok? Do you have food? Do you have water? Is it silent now in your place?” I think I ask it now every day, a few times a day to all of my friends. It is just horrible.”
“I ask mom, “How are you?” And she is crying and saying, “I am afraid of everything.””
“My friend sends this picture, she says, “I feel much more stressed when I hear the silence”. I understand something is happening when she hears some rockets or something like this. But when it is silent it is the most panic time. Horrible. Horrible. Is it reality? Is it 2022? I can’t believe.”
Anastasiia got confirmation that her brother was able to cross the border into Poland with one of her aunts where they were met with volunteers distributing warm clothes, food and a place to stay. Meanwhile, most of her family remained in western Ukraine, including her parents.
“I hope everything is ok. Now my mom and my aunt and my sister are volunteering there. Packing food for Ukrainian soldiers, for people who need food to send in their back pockets.”
As for Anastasiia, communicating with friends and family from the relative safety of Alanya, Turkey has left her with a painful mix of emotions. “First days I felt sorrow, I felt blame that all are there, all my life is there, my people are there, they’re crying, they are dying, rockets are above their heads. Then I understood that my parents will be much more calm knowing that I am much more safe being here. That I can help them much more from here.”
But in her position of relative safety, Anastasiia also feels an enormous responsibility.
“I need to think how to earn money, it is like I am the only one.”
“My mom and rest of the family were volunteering. Friends are in Kyiv. Everything is blocked so you are staying just in your bomb shelter. I’m here in Alanya, Turkey trying to find a job, to find projects, to find photo shoots. I have to earn money for my life here. To earn money to send to my brother and small children and aunt. To send money to my mother, father.”
“Because everything stopped in Ukraine – businesses, everything.”
Anastasiia had originally planned to travel back to Kyiv from Turkey on February 28th. She had six photo shoots scheduled, a coffee date with a guy she’d been messaging with for 2 months finally on the books, and the final semester of her Bachelor’s degree to complete.
Instead, on March 2nd, she found herself still in Turkey, separated from her work, her family, her community and all her plans for the future, as the attack on Kyiv and the rest of her home country continued into its second week.
“Today is the 7th day of this cruel war,” she shared via Instagram DM. “And all are horribly impressed how quickly people can get used to different. Girls are joking, “I wanted to lose weight, but not because of stress.” It’s really hard to eat. You always feel nausea because of stress. I have the same now, even though I am safe.”
“Life changed. It won’t be the same as it was before.”
And for more on-the-ground stories, see our piece from last week, “I Want to Work and Grow With My Country”: Ukraine’s Entrepreneurs Share Their Stories.
We appreciate everyone who has shared these stories and resources. To follow more of Anastasiia’s story and support her work, you can find her photography on Instagram at @ph.na.stasia and the visual content agency she is working to launch at @12content.lab .
Image credit: Gerrit Bril / EyeEm via Getty Images