Despite the barrage of coverage of the war in Ukraine, many would be hard-pressed to imagine how the country’s businesses are managing to go forward.
Fashion designer Elena Reva is among the more than 10 million people who have left their homes in Ukraine, either fleeing to another country or to elsewhere in that nation. As of Monday, there had been 3,527 civilian casualties in the country — 1,430 have been killed and 2,097 have been injured since the Russian Federation’s invasion started on Feb. 24, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
During an interview Tuesday, Reva described how her life has been upended in the past six weeks but she is determined to keep her signature company running. Her label is among the 30 Ukrainian brands that are now being sold via the just-launched e-commerce site Angelforfashion.com.
Beyond the logistics of trying to aid employees in Ukraine, shift production and retrieve inventory, Reva is facing more severe challenges. “My heart is broken because a lot of people have died including children and women. I’m crying even talking to you,” she said.
On Feb. 25 in the midst of the “very terrible situation” with many military helicopters overhead, the designer decided to relocate to western Ukraine with friends. Additional stops in other European countries followed before Reva reunited with her husband and settled into a friend’s home outside of Munich. After leaving western Ukraine, she first traveled to Hungary to reconnect with her husband, the coach of the Ukrainian national football team, who was in Tokyo when the war broke out. The couple then went to Croatia and Slovenia before deciding to move temporarily to Germany.
Reva is in the process of trying to move her company’s pattern making, production and all operations to Bulgaria, where she has good connections with factories there. The plan is to develop a little stock to continue the business. Most of her 14 full-time employees are still in Ukraine, aside from a few who have moved to Poland and the Czech Republic. “I’m trying to help them now with some medicine and food. Of course, it is such a difficult situation. Our team is trying to continue to work, but now it is so difficult,” she said.
Despite the upheaval and uncertainty, Reva hopes to return to Ukraine to live, “because I like my country, my city and everything that I have in Ukraine. This is my life and I can’t live without it. I hope that everything will be ok and I will go home.”
That said, given the invasion, Reva said she “has to find a solution to continue my brand. We are trying to get all of my stock and to have an event here to earn some money to help us to continue our business.”
As for outsiders’ views of the war in Ukraine, Reva said in Germany everyone understands the situation exactly. “I don’t know how it is possible to not understand. Only in Russia are people saying that you are confused about the situation,” she said. “Everyone I have met understands about this terrible situation.
“Right now our future depends on one person [referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin]. But I believe in our country, the Ukrainian people and in our army, but it will take some time,” the designer said. “For now, we have to be strong and help each other. We have to be like one family in Ukraine. That helps us.”
Noting how in Germany strangers have been so friendly and willing to help with a lot of things, Reva acknowledged how more countries have opened their borders to Ukrainian refugees and are coordinating with some of them to help relocate their businesses. “That’s a very good practice when different countries help us,” she said.
Without question additional assistance is needed from other countries to support the Ukrainian army and the people, who are still living in Ukraine, especially those in need of housing, food, medicine and everything else, Reva said. “A lot of countries are helping us and we are happy for that. I believe we will win and everything will stop in the near future because we have strong people, a very strong army and Ukrainian people have big hearts. I believe in our future and that Ukraine will be a new country and free from this Russian system.”