Ukraine has been at war for more than a year. But in reality, the unjustifiable attack on the Eastern European country is already the ninth anniversary: In March 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, which belongs to Ukraine in violation of international law. Since then, Vladimir Putin has tried to deny legitimacy to Europe's second-largest state after Russia. Although Moscow had explicitly recognized Ukraine's independence on December 2, 1991.

Peter-Philipp Schmitt

Editor in the section "Germany and the World".

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For designer Victoria Yakusha, independence is beyond question. Like so many creatives in the country, she was heavily influenced in her work by the aggression of her much larger neighbor. And not only because she and her twelve employees were initially forced to flee to safety from the attackers after the outbreak of war. Regular work was out of the question in Kiev. Nevertheless, a collection was created after the invasion in spring 2022. Its title: "Stepping on Ukrainian Soil". This does not mean the Russian soldiers, who tried in vain to quickly make large gains in Ukraine.

Deep connection to nature

Rather, Victoria Yakusha alludes to the intimate relationship of her compatriots to the ground on which they stand, which they work on and on which they live. Mother Earth symbolizes it in a black circular carpet hanging on the wall but taking root in the ground, represented by long threads. Semlia is the name of the design, to German: Earth. She is often black in Ukraine, which is described by the word Chernozem.

The carpet itself was knotted in a very old Carpathian technique, which is called Lischnykarstvo and is hardly used anymore. It has had several layers knotted on top of each other, just as earth is stacked on top of each other. In doing so, she wants to save a piece of Ukrainian tradition that no one knows exactly how long it has existed in the mountains in the west of the country.

The collection includes small stools and benches, some of which are reminiscent of lambs or ponies, but some of which remain geometrically abstract. Victoria Yakusha calls the animal elements Wolyky, which means freedom, the rather naïve figures are called Duschi, which can be translated as robust or stocky. For them, they are symbols of pure, free nature. They are also made from it, more precisely from a mix of materials known as stista, which means "made of dough".

With the mixture of clay and hay, among other things, house walls used to be plastered. She appreciates natural materials, works a lot with wood and wool, fabrics that have their own energy and can tell their own story, as she says.

Victoria Yakusha, who was born in Dnipro, has felt a deep connection to nature since childhood. She spent the summers with her grandparents in a village in Donbass, in the region that has been partly occupied by Russians since 2014. For them, the year was decisive. "We were on the verge of losing our identity," says Victoria Yakusha. At that time, she founded the brand FAINA, with which she wants to keep Ukrainian culture and traditions alive.