“A stunning shock. It is a nightmare but I can’t orientate myself to the magnitude of the catastrophe being so far away from its terrible reality. It is a crime against Ukraine and the whole of humanity.”

Ukrainian citizen Zoia Skoropadenko has been resident in Monaco for more than 20 years. NEWS.MC interviewed her just a month ago when the word ‘war’ seemed an unlikely outcome. Now Zoia has taken in five refugees. “I am giving small jobs and sending money to support my friends who are inside the country and who are in difficult straits. I’ve been raising money here and there. For example, one of our refugee guests was distraught because she had to leave behind her pets, and the person who promised to look after them abandoned them, locked in an empty flat to die.”

“I was moved by this little horror story, so I initiated a charity sale of my animal original drawings to support the HappyPawFund & UAnimals.official (https://thesavemovement.org/animal-crisis-in-ukraine-and-how-you-can-help/) associations inside Ukraine who are helping pets to survive the war. It might be just a teardrop in the ocean but I just see it as an action in my power. Next week I will hold an exhibition of ceramics in Paris “Oh Ceramics!” during the DecoOff and Maison&Object events, and all artists will donate money from sales to the foundation Come Back Alive to support Ukrainian army in this fight.”

Zoia has no direct family left in Ukraine but “I have many old friends who are in Ukraine right now as well as I have many friends who managed to run away and now they are all around the world as refugees.  It is difficult for them and for us. People are in shock, most of them need not only shelter and food, but psychological help. It’s hard for me to adjust so I can’t imagine how much harder it is for them, many of whom have lost everything and left their men behind in the fighting. The ones who have stayed in the country are under the ultimate horror of living in a war zone under constant threat of loosing their lives. They are doing their best, they are adjusting and volunteering, working together to survive the terrible situation. As for those who fled the country, the women and children, we are looking after five, two mothers and their three children. They are stoic but you can feel the shock and confusion, the fear, hope and the stress of the after-effects of leaving everything they had and know behind.”

At this point it is really hard to predict the outcome but one thing has become much clearer. “The situation in Ukraine and also Russia has always been confusing and chaotic; there are no saints but this awful conflict clearly separates who is the aggressor and who is the aggressed. This tragedy shows how Ukrainians are strong and any doubts there might have been before are gone and the country is united. We are a peaceful people. We love peace. We love our country, our nature, our culture.  The hope and dream is Ukraine will overcome and renew itself along the path of progress it has long stumbled along and it will be a new and better Ukraine.”

How can we help? “Just do what you can. You can’t do more, you shouldn’t do less.”

Zoia and the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky were born in the same town in the same year. “President Zelensky is a very brave person. I relate to him as both of us were born in very harsh city of Kryvyi Rih. It is the capital of mining and steel production and it was a big challenge to get from there to anywhere let alone where we are now: he became president of Ukraine and I became an artist living in Monaco. So maybe some piece of famous Kryvyi Rih steel gets into you when you are children and it helped us to be who we are and where we are.  We also share the same birthday year. Sometimes in my thoughts I put myself in his shoes and think what would I do in this situation… its unimaginable.  Courage, Mr President!” www.zoiaskoropadenko.com

Photo: Zoia Skoropadenko in Lviv before the war