SUkraine has been at war for more than a year. In truth, however, it is the ninth anniversary of the unjustifiable attack on the Eastern European country: In March 2014, Russia illegally annexed Crimea, which belongs to Ukraine. Since then, Vladimir Putin has tried to deny the legitimacy of Europe’s second largest country after Russia. Although Moscow had explicitly recognized Ukraine’s independence on December 2, 1991.
For designer Victoria Yakusha, independence is unquestionable. Like so many creatives in the country, she was heavily influenced in her work by the aggression of her much larger neighbor. And not just because she and her twelve employees were initially forced to take refuge 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 gain large amounts of ground in Ukraine.
Deep connection to nature
Rather, Victoria Yakusha alludes to her compatriots’ intimate relationship with the ground they stand on, work on and live from. She symbolizes Mother Earth in a black circular carpet that hangs on the wall but takes root in the ground, represented by long threads. The design is called Semlia, which means earth. She is often black in Ukraine, which is paraphrased by the word Chernozem.
The carpet itself was knotted using a very old Carpathian technique called lishnykarstvo, which is rarely used anymore. She has several layers knotted on top of each other, just like 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 remain geometrically abstract. Victoria Yakusha calls the animal elements Wolyky, which means something like freedom, the rather naive characters are called Duschi, which can be translated as robust or stocky. For them, they are symbols of pure, free nature. That’s what they’re made from, more specifically, a mix of materials known as stista, which means “made of dough.”
House walls used to be plastered with the mixture of clay and hay, among other things. 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.
Born in Dnipro, Victoria Yakusha has felt a deep connection with nature since childhood. She spent the summers with her grandparents in a village in the Donbass, in the region that has been occupied by Russians in parts since 2014. The year was crucial for her. “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 its traditions alive.