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Yevheniya Haydamaka, illustrator

“I was born and raised in Tarashcha, an administrative center in the Kyiv region, which is 120 kilometers from the capital of Ukraine. It’s a small town with around 10,000 residents. I adore small towns and villages, and I’m incredibly thankful for being able to spend my childhood right there, in Tarashcha, surrounded by nature. I grew up with a love of a slow lifestyle, so, in some way, that Tarashcha as I knew it is always by my side. I dream of a pleasant and convenient living for smaller Ukrainian towns.

Nowadays, many villages and administrative centers residents move out due to the lack of employment. And it makes sense, as everyone reaches towards opportunities.

I moved to Kyiv in 2009. My personal story, which took place right here, made me fall in love with this city. I’m grateful to it for the people I’ve met, the places, and the time of my life that I’ve got to experience here. I went to Kyiv Polytechnic University, but the department of graphics, which I attended, was located in another place – on Volodymyrska Street, near St Andrew’s church. The whole area next to Zoloti Vorota metro station, where I’ve spent five years of my life, is dear to my heart. My friends and I used to draw and eat buns in parks there. However, if we are to leave personal stuff and nostalgia behind, I would say that the city itself has very few reasons to be admired for. Kyiv has no infrastructure. Its facilities end at “we’ve installed a ramp, we’ve got new buses on the route.” I can see why the bedroom communities’ aesthetics is gaining popularity recently, even though it’s not my cup of tea. Similarly, I don’t share a common love towards Podil district because of its poor state. But we have to work with what we got. Changes don’t happen in a blink.

I’ve partially lived on different continents during the last five years due to study and work. My destination was never motivated by “running away” from somewhere, only by “getting to a new place” – to gain new experiences implement work plans. Currently, I live in Hong Kong and teach Illustration at an American university. Before that, I’ve studied at that university (SCAD) in the USA on a Fulbright Scholarship for two years and worked in New York for eight months.

I think that running away from yourself is a bad idea in general, no matter what the destination is. I know many people who go abroad and still remain unhappy, just like they were here. One must understand that you bring whatever is inside of you too.

If you’re happy inside, you enjoy staying in any city. And if you haven’t figured yourself out yet, then moving somewhere will only put you at temporal ease. Sometimes I hear an idealistic approach from some people: if you fly to New York, things are better there, and you must stay there.

Generally, “better” and “worse” are relative notions and depend on your goal. My occupation allows me to see the world and work in an international environment, and I get its advantages. It allows me to compare completely different experiences and find something new in each of them. It gives me a sense of fulfillment.

Somehow when I was still in Tarashcha, I believed my life would undoubtedly turn out interesting. And indeed, it will get that way, providing you’ve made it to be so. People would tell me that I’d never come back, and still, I always do, and the first thing right after that is visiting my home, where my parents live. Tarashcha is my home, and no cosmopolitan city will ever change that. The same goes with Kyiv, it is a big part of my life, so I will always come back here. I remember when I visited Tarashcha during the summer break between my first and second years of study in the US. I was sitting next to a tree and thought to myself: “Jenya, you’re sitting under the pine, in the administrative center of Kyiv region, you have tickets to New York, and still, you don’t want to leave.” I always have to fight with mixed feelings of such kind.

If we compare these three big cities, then Kyiv would resemble pajamas, the ones that are warm, cozy, and so familiar. I absolutely adore Kyiv during winter, when it’s snowing. I find something magical in that. Everything becomes so quiet and kind of slower.

I used to live in the Osokorky district. When the snow is falling, these bedroom communities turn different. They completely change their appearance. There were lakes and country houses near us, and I would often go there just for a walk when it was snowing. Kyiv’s atmosphere reminds me of family and friends. You can unwind here.

New York speaks to me more about work. What’s hard to notice about the city when you live there due to the never-ending rush is that it brings together absolutely everyone and everything. The whole town is a big house that is welcome to everyone. I worked in a couple of places there. Still, my favorite one has to be the Society of Illustrators, a museum, union, and a place for people from my field to visit for exhibitions, award ceremonies, and other events. New York is a city that looks ultimately the same in person as on-screen, and stories that take place there are equally extraordinary but ordinary concern people, though.

And Hong Kong has completely changed my self-opinion, ruined multiple stereotypes, and given me some new ones. It’s hard to figure out this city, even though it’s my fourth month here. For instance, on the island of Hong Kong, where I’m staying, skyscrapers not far from the wild beaches and mountains with no sign of a living soul, however, with an excellent run infrastructure. When climbing up the hill, you’ll notice that skyscrapers make up the smallest part of all Hong Kong islands. Indeed, according to the data, Hong Kong is about green hills and beaches, not the concrete jungle.

My last relocation has persuaded me even more in the idea that every city or country will give you precisely what you’re expecting from it. And I can never imagine myself living in a town that won’t offer me a “slow life.”

I clearly understand my need to be near nature, have a moderate social life, and a circle of “my” people. I need a sense of home. It’s clear that you can’t gain some experience in Kyiv or Hong Kong. Just like in art – everything is relative and, eventually, it’s vital to listen to what your heart says first and foremost”.

Yevheniya Haydamaka, illustrator


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