Ukrainian architects and designers share their hopes for the future

Facing unimaginable challenges, the country’s design community is standing strong and collaborating in new ways

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ELLE Decoration

As ELLE Decoration Ukraine’s Editor-in-Chief Sonya Zabouga recently wrote in an open letter to the design world, ‘What is happening in Ukraine is a crime and must be stopped’. She, and the many other creatives – architects, product designers, interior designers – who worked in the country’s thriving design scene have seen their lives change overnight. But, as Sonya continues so eloquently… ‘Shock and fear today are mixed with an incredible sense of patriotism and unity that has rallied the Ukrainian nation. As never before, we are ready to do everything to defend our right to peace and self-determination.’

We have spoken to five Ukrainian creatives about the once-unthinkable challenges they are now facing on a daily basis, and the real ways in which the design community is coming together to help one another.


Victoria Yakusha

Yakusha Design is a multidisciplinary studio founded by Victoria in 2006. The studio works within the fields of architecture, interiors, creative direction and product design. Its collection ‘Faina’, launched in 2014, takes its roots in the country’s cultural heritage, deeply connected to nature, and representative of a modern Ukraine. faina.design.com

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What is it about your design that makes it distinctly Ukrainian?

I’m an architect and never thought of doing product design, but due to the Revolution of Dignity [also known as the Maidan] I decided to show how Ukrainian design can inspire. That’s how ‘Faina’ was born. Its authenticity is completely taken from Ukrainian tradition and nature. It’s already known worldwide for its identity. I expressed this strong will of the Ukrainian people through my work.

What are your fears and hopes?

It is not hope that we have, it is a strong belief in our victory. We have strong will, a strong homeland, a power of truth – they can’t be overpowered. Freedom is in our hearts.

How do you think creative freedom can be restored?

As soon as they shoot less we’ll start our work.


Rina Lovko

Ukrainian architect Rina Lovko is engaged in the design of private and commercial real estate. In her harmonious and functional interiors every centimetre is thought out, ensuring they delight the people who inhabit them for years to come. rinalovko.com

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How do members of the Ukrainian design community help one another?

Everyone helps each other to survive. All kinds of chats have been created to fight the growth of propaganda. They help everyone move, hide – everyone is in touch. Now the main thing is to be in business and work on the media front to show the truth to Russian citizens.

What makes Ukrainian design special?

We are a very talented nation. I work with a lot of talented, very hardworking people. We spend our time creating, and creating something new. We are very European-oriented and are strongly connected with Europe. The last eight years has especially shown our authenticity and pride for our country. Our history goes back a thousand years. We have our special language, folklore and culture.

How do you think creative freedom can be restored?

Peace in our land. In our homes. Right now, we are all out of work. We have been forced to leave our homes. There are millions of refugees across the country. Nobody can work now. Everything has stopped. We are frozen.


Yova Yager

Yova Yager is a Ukrainian, socially responsible hospitality designer who started her business in 2014. She fills each space she works on with energy, joy and an ironic attitude. Her projects are famous for their functionality, a high level of professionalism and always contain a very important message: keep the planet safe and cared for. yovayager.com

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What are your fears and hopes?

Our fears are that any time, at any moment your friends are in the house that is being fired at by stray bullets or bombs or missiles. The terror is never ending. Everyone hopes that the enemy will leave our country tomorrow, because we have to go to work on Monday. I’m kidding. We joke a lot because it’s difficult to live in constant fear, it consumes you from the inside fast. We try to distract ourselves with discussions on how we are going to rebuild our cities.

How does the Ukrainian design community help one another?

Here everyone looks out for and after each other. Even if you get a small cut on your finger, you will be saved by half a city of volunteers. I’m kidding again, but that’s a bit how it is. We are united, even stronger than before. Many designers have stayed in their cities, some have volunteered for territorial defence, some have actively interacted with international media, and some drew infographics. Lots of work has been going on and everyone helps as much as they possibly can.

How do you think creative freedom can be restored?

Interesting question. I haven’t had a chance to think about it yet, as I’m here 24/7. Currently I focus on communicating with the world through social networks. I get many questions from journalists and from ordinary people around the world – everyone wants to know how they can help and this is super powerful and inspiring. Every warm word has meaning. Every chance you get to go outside is important for every Ukrainian. Now, the question ‘how are you’ means ‘I love you’. Together we are love, and love gives birth to the new. With our love for our country and our freedom we have shown the world that the power of love will always be greater than any evil.


Dmitriy Sivak

Sivak & Partners Studio, based in Kyiv, creates comfortable spaces for life, work and leisure, and develops new solutions to improve people’s quality of life. The studio designs both commercial and residential spaces, guided by the rule: ‘It doesn’t matter what you do. What matters is how well you do it’. sivak-partners.com

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What makes Ukrainian design so special?

After the revolution, the traditional styles with an abundance of gold and expensive materials became extremely criticised here. It became associated with the politicians who fled the country. And people on this wavelength began to order only modern design on a mass scale.

What are your fears and hopes?

Our fears are that we cannot trust the promises to spare civilians. There have already been many civilian casualties, far more than they say on TV. All these threats of nuclear weapons only inspire more fear.

How will creative freedom be restored?

I have great faith that this will end quickly in peace. I am more eager than ever in my life to build and design in my country, to rebuild. I didn’t want to leave before the war either, because there are enough talented architects and designers in Europe. But there is a real need for design here, especially after the war. Design is not just about making something beautiful or comfortable, design is also about helping people.


Balbek Bureau

The Balbek Bureau’s team value, protect and develop the environment they live in. They are eager to make the Ukrainian cities more comfortable for their residents, taking into consideration their historical and cultural heritage. Bureau designs bars, restaurants, hotels, corporate spaces and much more. balbek.com

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What are your fears and hopes?

The hope is that the war will stop soon and that we can return to our homes. There’s a lot to be built and restored. The greatest fear is losing our loved ones, and the uncertainty.

How is the Ukrainian design community helping one another?

We help each other to relocate, find shelter, or bring humanitarian aid.

How do you think creative freedom can be restored?

Our creative process will depend on the new international projects we obtain (because local have been stopped) and the people who will be ready to get back on track. We have already organised teams ready to take on our current work around the world.

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