АвторAuthor: Olha Verkalets | Translation: Nataliia Zadorozhna
5 September 2022
37-year-old Yevheniia Prinova is the owner of the Prinova outerwear brand, as well as a wife and mother of two sons. On March 6, she left her home and business in Kharkiv in order to save her family. In May, Yevheniia started the process of relocating her own production to launch a new collection in Ivano-Frankivsk. About difficulties the woman from Kharkiv faced and what it’s like to launch the business during the war read in “Monologues of the War”.
Before the invasion, we visited the Kyiv Fashion exhibition. At the event, our brand generated a lot of buzz and we received many orders. We didn’t have time, and on February 24 we were supposed to start production of two models.
The biggest challenge for us before the full-scale invasion was the lack of day offs. We had work trips to different cities of Ukraine, and there was no time to relax.
Literally, two or three of my friends were packing bug-out bags in advance. We did not believe that the war would break out, but we were given signs. On February 23, my husband and I were stuck at work. He offered to go and fill up the car “to the full”, because the dollar is growing. There was a long line at the gas station, and we thought that was because of the dollar exchange rate.
We arrived home at 10:00 p.m., and a neighbor, who works as a border guard, was leaving the entrance. He was in uniform, with a gun and a large backpack. He immediately jumped into the car and didn’t even say hello to us.
On the night of February 24, my youngest son had a fever, so I woke up around 4:45 a. m. When I went into the kitchen, I heard a loud explosion. At first, I did not understand what was going on. Then again and again the sounds came from all sides. We live in the center, so we did not see these explosions.
I started looking for information on the Internet, and there people wrote that the war had begun. When I ran to my mother, she said it was just thunder. I called the godmother, but she didn’t believe it either. Then I phoned my brother who lived in Northern Saltivka. I asked him: “Did you hear the explosions?”. “We not only heard, but saw them,” he answered me. Later, several missiles hit their house. All residents of the high-rise building were evacuated, so the situation is currently unknown.
During the first week of the invasion, my team and I couldn’t believe what was happening. At first, they called me and we agreed to start the work at 6 a.m., then we postponed it to 8 a.m. Of course, nobody left their home that day.
“People at the station threw away their belongings, because they could not fit in the evacuation train. They left the city with one bag and documents. Terrible things happened there. There were explosions all around, nowhere to hide, huge crowds of people. If someone fell, others trampled on him. Foreigners ran into the carriages and stood at the entrance with knives and pushed other people until “their people” got on the train.”
My husband and I never do a lot of grocery shopping in advance. It happened so that on the 24th we almost ran out of everything. We tried to get some food, but it was unreal. There were giant queues, people were taking everything from the shelves. After a few days, we went to the store again. Then it was even worse. We were out of groceries and the store only had chips, beer and soda on the shelves. What should I feed my children? I barely found half-rotten onions, broccoli, and cookies. But I couldn’t cook anything from that either.
A few days later, we already distinguished “Grad” launch vehicle sounds from artillery. Almost all the time we were hiding in the bomb shelter of our house. We ran home only to cook some food and take a shower.
Misinformation affected our evacuation. Friends from other regions told us not to leave, because the road was dangerous. But it turned out that it was much more dangerous to stay in the city. When a shell hit somewhere close to us, we decided to evacuate.
Until the 6 of March in Kharkiv, I hardly got a wink of sleep. I didn’t even think that it was possible to endure this physically. I got a feeling that I have become an insect whose main task is to survive. And all desires on the 24th instantly disappeared. Now nothing makes sense to me. I try to pull myself together and work, but I can’t get rid of this feeling either.
I remember how a russian plane flew over the roof of our house. We live on the top floor, so we didn’t have time to go down to the basement, we could only hear it up close. Instinctively, we fell to the floor. It was very scary.
Last night was restless. At 7 a. m. my friends and I were standing by the cars with our bags. We were thinking about whether to leave the city or not. But when we heard another sound of explosion, we quickly got into our cars, and drove away.
A lot of car accidents happened on the way. We reached Dnipro at night, although on a normal day such a trip would take only three hours. We thought about staying in the city for a few days. But my friend received a letter from a foreign IT company, asking people to evacuate from several regions of Ukraine. Dnipropetrovsk region was also on that list. The next morning we left for Uman, then Kropyvnytskyi and Vinnytsia. We planned to stay overnight in the last city for at least three days. But the next morning the shell hit there too. There was a feeling that the war was catching up with us everywhere. We stayed the night there and drove to Ivano-Frankivsk, where we stayed. The road from Kharkiv took six days.
We lost everything, even our home. And in Kharkiv, we had our own apartment, which was hard to earn. We were lucky that our family was sheltered for a certain time by a friend in Ivano-Frankivsk.
I was supposed to leave with my children to Poland, but I couldn’t. I don’t want to live in another country. I understand that I have already lost my life, but it is easier for me to stay in Ukraine.
My husband continues to go to Kharkiv and volunteer. Recently, they helped a woman with children whose house was destroyed by a missile. They were left with nothing. We made requests to volunteer centers, collected things and products for them. My husband also brought aid to the children’s hospital. He says that at the beginning of the invasion, it was scarier in Kharkiv. The shelling has decreased, but it has not stopped. People are exhausted, with no hope that the war will end. They walk like zombies, they don’t smile much. There is no work in the city.
I remember the first time I heard an air alert raid in Ivano-Frankivsk. I was supposed to go to the store, but instead started running to hide in the shelter. The locals looked at me with surprise, because I was the only one running away. Everyone stayed calm, people went about their business.
In order not to go crazy, in May I worked on the summer collection. My mother and I just made it in the apartment. My husband took several sewing machines from Kharkiv. Then we hired a bus to transport a part of the warehouse.
Our production is just beginning to be set up in Ivano-Frankivsk. Many organizational issues, finding premises, logistics. The equipment in Kharkiv was all preserved. But I lost employees, so I am trying to find new ones in Ivano-Frankivsk.
We also lost a lot on the spring collection. There were many bulk orders with partial prepayment. Most of the invested funds are mine. I was always afraid to invest a large sum. However, then I took the risk of making more popular models in advance, because the demand for them increased. We bought fabric and accessories. But all of these models are now unfinished. Until now, I pay off with the customers who have invested in the collection. So, there is no profit, only losses.
So far, we have made samples of the winter collection. We want to launch it. I think that this process should be entrusted to the girls who remained in Kharkiv. I can’t leave them without work and I don’t want to lose them. They are my family. There are not many of them, but I want to provide them with work. Everything will depend on the number of orders.
In any case, we will be in Ivano-Frankivsk for a long time, because the production has already been moved. I gave myself time until the New Year. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll close. Now is not the season for outerwear, though. September-October will show what will happen next.
I used to have my life planned ten years ahead. I wanted to complete the renovation, buy a cottage, increase production volumes, and expand the assortment. I don’t have any plans now.
It is difficult to launch a business during the war. It is impossible to make a business plan or make any predictions. However, there is no fear of anything. But the question of where to put the result of our work afterwards still remains.
Чому важливо поширити цю історію?
Якщо українці не розповідатимуть свій погляд на війну в Україні, світ поступово забуватиме про нас. Натомість цим обов’язково скористаються росіяни. Тому не даймо їм жодного шансу.
Why is it important to share this story?
If Ukrainians do not share their views on the war in Ukraine, the world will gradually forget about us. Instead, the Russians will definitely take advantage of this. So let's not give them a chance.
АвторAuthor: Olha Verkalets | Translation: Nataliia Zadorozhna