Nomis Founder Alyona Kiperman On The Nightmare Unfolding in Her Native Ukraine

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On the morning of 24 February, my mum rushed into our hotel room and said the war had started. I couldn’t understand… What war? She said the airports were being destroyed. My sister, who was at home in Ukraine, had to take her child and go to the border. My grandparents and my husband’s parents are also still in Ukraine.

I didn’t think for a second that I wouldn’t be flying back home to Kyiv. A friend of mine had gone skiing [before the invasion], and left her small kids at home with their grandmother. Now, their city is occupied by the Russian army, and she’s on the Ukrainian/Moldovan border, but getting back home seems impossible. Roads have been destroyed. We’re seeing pictures that look like they were taken in Dresden during the Second World War, not a Ukrainian city in 2022.

Before this, no one would have ever believed that Russia would start bombing at five in the morning. It sounds like nonsense to even say it. For me, before Russia took a big part of our country [Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014] and made a huge effort to destabilize the region of Donbas, we [Russians and Ukrainians] were like brothers. Now, it’s aggression, it’s full-scale war.

I’m originally from Odessa. I’ve lived in Paris and London, but I returned to Kyiv three years ago. It is my home. I opened my Nomis store one month ago in the centre of Kyiv. It is beautiful. I want to return and be reunited with my team. For now I’m in contact with them 24/7, and trying to help from afar with organizing crossings for those who are leaving. Each day things are starting to become more clear. I am still trying to comprehend that this is war, that we will not go home anytime soon. Meanwhile, it is the million-plus refugees without shelter that I’m thinking about.

We Ukrainians outside of the country are trying to do what we can to help, we are connecting people through social networks—for example putting someone looking for shelter in Poland in touch with someone who can offer accommodation. We are crowd-funding, and sending money to organizations providing shelter and to the Ukrainian military.

Sometimes in tragic situations, you do everything you can to put it out of your mind. Not this time. We are totally focused. But we need help. The Russian bombing—it’s absolutely out of control. They are consciously aiming bombing at residential areas. They went to Enerhodar to attack a nuclear power plant, risking an explosion 10 times bigger than Chernobyl. Is there any logical explanation for this?

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