This Working Life: “The war decided everything for us” – a makeup artist about growing up in the Donbass, fleeing Ukraine and the similarities between Ukrainian and Irish women

What I would like in life would have been different four months ago, but now I only want peace in my country and peace in the world. My second wish is a happy and long life for my child Matvey (8 years old).

Today he is fine, his English is improving and he has friends in class. He asks me every few weeks when we will return to Ukraine. When we first arrived, he asked every day.

Today my sister lives in Russia, my mother and another brother live in Ukraine. I don’t know when I will see them again, my younger brother is getting married this September in Russia. We were invited to the wedding, but I’m not sure I’m ready to go to Russia. Maybe later we will go to visit them.

Mood Makeup

I am very happy that girls in Ireland love to do makeup, they want to be beautiful and they want to have their makeup done by a professional.

But on the other hand, it is not so easy to connect with people, to show that you are a good makeup artist and want to be their artist.

My working day is hard to describe because it changes every day and can start very early if I’m working on a shoot – around 3-4am – and running very late at night around 9-10pm.

I usually work Friday and Saturday, do individual makeup sessions and start early, around 7am. I don’t do many weddings as they are booked a year in advance, but I often do makeup for guests and there are many weddings, not just on weekends, I can easily make an appointment on a Monday morning.

Ukrainian women love to do beautiful makeup, go to parties, go on dates. They need a general look, and Irish women are like that too.

They want their makeup done for a variety of reasons. For work events or if they are going to a wedding. I also work in a beauty salon in Oslo once a week and there was a woman there recently who wanted to get her makeup done to complete her divorce papers.

After Covid, I think people have changed their minds about life. Things that they considered unnecessary, like putting on makeup, they hadn’t done before and decided that they would like to do it now. And why not?

Conflict

I grew up in a small town in the Donbass in Ukraine. I had a difficult childhood because my family had three children besides me and I was the oldest. This time was difficult for Ukraine – in the first years of independence from the USSR there was high unemployment, a shortage of consumer goods – many foodstuffs, clothes, household items.

When I finished school, I was glad to leave this small town, because I felt that something big and interesting was waiting for me. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I had a lot of enthusiasm and I went to a much bigger city, Luhansk, and entered the lyceum.

In parallel with my studies at the Lyceum, I worked as a waitress in a cafe. After studying for two years, I got the education of a designer-tailor. I never worked in this area, because there companies and ateliers only wanted a tailor, not a designer.

I liked to design, to make some kind of sketches, but I didn’t like the factories – they asked me to sew pockets to the jacket all day. I did this for six months, and then I decided to become a makeup artist during my maternity leave with Matvey.

Because I wanted to spend time with my child, I decided to become self-employed and work my own schedule.

When my son was one year old, I completed professional make-up courses. It was two weeks of intensive training from morning to evening. It was hard but very interesting work and I am very pleased with my little success.

In 2014, a war broke out in eastern Ukraine, and my son and I moved to Kyiv. We were one of the last families to leave our large apartment building, where about 60-70 families lived, because I did not believe that the war would last long.

But when the war broke out in Ukraine on February 24, I didn’t want to stay in the danger zone anymore. It was very hard for me to leave, especially when everything became so good and settled with us. But I saved my son from all this hell.

Safety in Ireland

Our trip to Ireland was made possible thanks to my friend Sergei. He knew a good man and journalist from Ireland, Johnny O’Reilly. And when we were leaving Ukraine on the second day of the war and were still in Poland, Johnny offered to help us in Ireland. We received a lot of support from the locals. Sile and Brendan McVeigh, Angie Gough, Christina Hurley and many more with big hearts.

If I had not known that so many kind people and so much support were waiting for us here, most likely I would not have flown so far from Ukraine, but the war decided everything for us.

We are very lucky to have so many kind people around us. Thank God.

Diverse work

I currently work for Riot Games. They stream video games in Singapore so they work at night due to different time zones. It’s weird for me since I don’t understand video games that much. Four men and one woman – they play for six hours straight. Men from Cyprus and the UK just need to powder so that they do not shine, and a woman from Malaysia needs to do makeup.

I got the job when I met the PR manager for Riot games. Fortunately, Sile and Brendan, my host family, can look after Matvey, and he can call me at any time.

I was lucky that in my work there were many interesting projects. The key one was working at the Cannes Film Festival this year with Ukrainian influencer Jenny Gordienko. She was nominated for an Oscar and won.

I met a fashion show organizer and was supposed to go to work for Milan Fashion Week earlier this year, but then the war came and more important things came into my life. I recently contacted her and she invited me to Paris Fashion Week in September for a job.

I like my job because I like working with people. Worst experience of my work? This has never happened before and I hope it never will.