Interview with Juli Karzanova

from Ukraine

May 3, 2022

According to her bio, model and artist Juli Karzanova “lives in a fantasy world where her work is her own emotional diary… mixing imagination into her everyday reality.” However, on 24th February, Juli’s everyday reality changed dramatically when Russian forces began their attack on her home city of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine.


Despite friends urging her to escape, Juli knew she couldn’t leave. With an established social media platform and an excellent command of English, she was uniquely qualified to document the war in Chernihiv and draw global attention to its plight, making her posts, rather than her art, her ‘emotional diary’. During the 39-day occupation and the difficult weeks that have followed, she has not just raised awareness of the suffering but also tried to tackle it. She works as a volunteer, seeking to help her fellow citizens get the food and humanitarian aid they desperately need.


Even now, with the Russians gone, there is often no power or running water, and food is scarce. Chernihiv is the largest Ukrainian city to be freed, but its people aren’t convinced it’s all over. They live in constant fear of Russian forces returning, and their fears and struggles have made them aggressive, says Juli. “It’s another war inside our own people.”


With the war still very much headline news, we asked Juli for her unique insights into life in a country that’s badly battered, but still unbroken.


Juli, thank you for making time to speak with us in the midst of such a horrible time for Ukraine. How is the situation in Chernihiv at the moment?


The situation is slowly getting better in terms of pharmacies opening, shops are opening… now we have around 15 places where people can go and get humanitarian aid. Every day, at 9 pm, all the lights are switched off. We have such a rule that if Ukrainians in Chernihiv will not switch off the lights in their apartment after 9 pm, the city government will switch off electricity for the whole city because of the need to stay invisible.


Also, there are some big companies. For example, in Chernihiv, we have a factory that produces stuff for animals which are sold around the world. The company's called COLLAR. It was also destroyed. So companies like that are somehow slowly starting to produce the goods they were doing before the war.


The situation around Chernihiv in the villages that were occupied or destroyed, there is a big problem. There are still a lot of people who have no home. We are now working to find out how to provide shelter for so many people who lost their homes. So I am now mostly working in the villages trying to help the people over there.


What would be the main message you would like to get across to the rest of Europe?


My message is that the war is not over. I know that all the good people all over the globe are now getting very tired. There are still cities in Ukraine that are being heavily attacked by Russians. We still need help. As much as is possible. Because, as I say all the time, we are protecting not only our country Ukraine, we are protecting the rest of Europe. So we are all in this together.


There are now some foreigners coming to meet me to show them the situation over here, and on the surface, it looks like the war is over, but it's not. Nobody has any guarantees they (the Russians) will not be back in one month, two months' or three months' time. Regarding the other parts of Ukraine: if everything will be quite okay right now in Chernihiv, I'm going to be a volunteer in other parts of Ukraine.


Like what is happening to Mariupol... I don't think anybody in the world can find words for how children and their mothers are being forced to live in a basement with a lot of dead bodies and a lot of dead people lying around. It's really very hard to talk about these things. I mean, if the rest of the world cannot help Mariupol, it is very hard to find the right words...





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