Milan Fashion Week: Through the eyes of a Ukrainian woman, Alina Frendiy
Remember *that* viral image?
Attending Milan Fashion Week was one of the most desirable events before the war. I have received invitations to shows and presentations, carefully prepared street style looks, and was very positive about this trip.
Before I departed from Kyiv, the situation in Ukraine was quite intense. Russia threatened us, but every Ukrainian hoped that those were just loud political statements. I had no idea there would be a full-scale war in Ukraine, in the centre of Europe. I could have never imagined that Russia would start bombing Kyiv, even in my worst nightmares.
On the 22nd of February, I arrived in Milan. At the same time, my husband went to our hometown, Ternopil, western Ukraine, due to family reasons, and our 2-year-old son, Yan, stayed with his nanny in Kyiv.
"They have started a war. Russia bombed Kyiv," called Petro, my husband, on the 24th. One can only imagine all this fear and pain when I woke up alone in Milan, apart from my family.
My son was on his way to the west of the country in a car with my friends, who were also fleeing the city. On their way, they got into a car accident.
It was, and still is, the most horrific day of my life.
While going through all of this terrifying news and checking on my loved ones, there was one question on the table: "What can I do as a fashion influencer now?"
I started looking for the Ukrainian flag. It wasn't simple, but I did find one. And then, together with my Ukrainian colleague, we marched just outside the Prada show with the flag in our hands.
We had to do something to be noticed by the media so that the whole world would start talking about it.
Honestly, back then, I didn't know how it would turn out for my career, given that the fashion industry usually stays out of politics. I didn't know whether I would be crucified forever for such a radical act or whether I would be supported. At that moment, I had only one thing on my mind: I am Ukrainian, and this was my duty.
Influencers from Russia, whom I knew from before, did not even say a word passing by me while I was crying with the flag in my hands. I was disappointed in them at that exact moment.
But, it worked. The photo with the flag went viral. "There is simply too much at stake to stay silent," the founder and CEO of The Business of Fashion, Imran Amed, stated on his Instagram on the 1st of March.
The street style looks that I showed at the Fashion Week was the Ukrainian flag, and the brand presentations and shows I attended were rallies for Ukraine. I learned all the slogans in Italian and sang the anthem of Ukraine every time through tears.
The road home took me 30 hours on a bus. I had to come back because of my son. And in such tragic moments, we must stay together.
But in Ukraine, there is no safe place for a child now. The very moment when Ternopil was attacked with bombs, we understood it. Whenever we heard sirens, we had to hide in a bomb shelter.
As a mother, I should take care, not only of the country but also of my child. I decided that we should leave for Poland. Currently, we are in Warsaw, where I can volunteer and be helpful in every way needed.
Meanwhile, my husband, Petro Zastavnyy, a restaurant businessman and music producer, has resumed the kitchens of his restaurant chain in Ternopil to provide food to those who need it the most: territory defence and the Armed Forces of Ukraine. During the last month, they cooked 12,000 meals.
Apart from volunteer tasks, I am also working on my first lecture in Warsaw, which will be announced soon. All proceeds will go to support humanitarian aid in Ukraine. Besides, two of my businesses, TOTÉ, the fashion label, and Coosh, a multi-brand store of Ukrainian brands, are working to support the economy of Ukraine and the Armed forces with protective gear and medicine.
All of us are doing our part to bring us closer to the day of Ukraine's victory. And I do believe this day will come very soon.
Written by Alina Frendiy
Buro 24/7 Selection