AP

Ukrainian fashion brand in bombarded city picks up and flees

Mar 26, 2022, 12:30 AM | Updated: 12:05 pm

Ukrainian co-founders of high-end hat designer brand Ruslan Baginskiy 'RB', from left, public relat...

Ukrainian co-founders of high-end hat designer brand Ruslan Baginskiy 'RB', from left, public relations director Petro Yasinskiy, designer and creative director Ruslan Baginskiy and Victoria Semerei, whole sale director, pose for a photograph, inside a college classroom turned into a workshop they have been working from after fleeing Kiev, in Lviv, western Ukraine, Friday, March 25, 2022. Daily bombings led the company's co-founders to make the decision to flee. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

(AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

LVIV, Ukraine (AP) — Just days ago, Artem Gorelov was trying to survive in one of the most brutal parts of Ukraine, the Russian-occupied Kyiv suburb of Bucha. Now he stands in a quiet room in the late afternoon sunlight, hand-making hats for a local fashion brand worn by Madonna and Ukraine’s first lady.

Gorelov has joined Ukrainians’ massive migration west to the city of Lviv, near Poland. And, unusually, the 100-employee company he works for arrived with him. Searching for safety but determined not to leave Ukraine, the brand Ruslan Baginskiy is among the businesses that are uprooting amid war.

Two months ago, first lady Olena Zelenska was in the hat-maker’s showroom in Kyiv. Now the company operates in two borrowed classrooms of a school, its workers delicately piecing together materials near students’ decades-old sewing machines.

It is a slower process, but clients like Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s have expressed support, said co-owner Victoria Semerei, 29.

She was among the Ukrainians who didn’t believe Russia would invade. She recalled being in Italy the day before the invasion and telling partners that war wasn’t possible.

Two hours after her plane landed back in Kyiv, the bombardment began.

Daily bombings led the company’s three co-founders to make the decision to flee. While some employees scattered to other parts of Ukraine or to other countries, about a third moved the company’s essentials to Lviv two weeks ago.

“Normal life will resume one day,” Semerei said. “We need to be prepared.”

The company threw itself into the national wartime effort that has seized Ukraine, donating money to the army and turning its Instagram feed from brand promotion to updates on the war.

“This is not the time to be shy. Not anymore,” co-founder and creative director Ruslan Baginskiy said. The company once had Russian clients, but that stopped long before the invasion as regional tensions grew. “It’s not possible to have any connections,” he said. “It’s all political now.”

As part of that spirit, Semerei rejected the idea of moving the company to a safer location outside Ukraine. “We have our team here, the most precious team we have,” she said. “Talented, all of them.”

Past brand campaigns for the company have identified closely with Ukraine, photographed in placed like Kherson, now under Russian occupation. Cities that the hat-maker’s employees once called home have been torn apart.

“So many Russian troops,” said Gorelov, who fled Bucha near the capital. “It was not even possible to defend.”

His arrival in Lviv, where life goes on and fashionable shops remain open, was surreal. It took days to adjust. Now “I feel relaxed doing this,” he said, a new hat under construction on the table before him.

In another corner of the makeshift workspace, Svetlana Podgainova worried about her family back in the separatist-held territory of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Moscow separatists have been fighting for control for nearly eight years. It was already difficult to visit with family even before the invasion. Now her brother can’t leave the region.

She feels horrible seeing her colleagues from other parts of Ukraine pulled into the war and wishes that normal life would return for them all. Until then, “I wanted to come back to work so much,” she said. It occupies her mind and makes her feel less alone in a new city, and she calls her colleagues a “big family.”

The hat-maker’s employees are among the estimated 200,000 displaced people now living in Lviv, with the co-founders now sharing an apartment with several other people.

Considering the challenges, this year probably will be the worst in the company’s six-year history, Semerei said. But “this is something we’ll go through and hopefully be even stronger.”

__

This story corrects spelling to Neiman Marcus in 4th paragraph.

___

Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Rudy Giuliani...

Associated Press

Rudy Giuliani is the final defendant to serve indictment in Arizona fake elector case

Rudy Giuliani has been served an indictment in Arizona's fake elector case for his role in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

14 hours ago

Houston storms cause widespread damage on Friday...

Associated Press

Some in Houston facing no power for weeks after storms cause widespread damage, killing at least 4

Houston storms cause widespread damage on Friday, May 17. Thunderstorms hit the southeastern part of Texas, killing at least four people.

2 days ago

Man gets 30 years in prison for attacking ex-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband with a hammer...

Associated Press

Man gets 30 years in prison for attacking ex-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband with a hammer

A man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for attacking the husband of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a hammer.

2 days ago

audio from President Joe Biden’s interview about classified documents blocked...

Associated Press

GOP advances Garland contempt charges after White House exerts executive privilege over Biden audio

The move to release audio from President Joe Biden’s interview about classified documents was blocked on Thursday by the White House.

3 days ago

Asylum processing for new migrants: Changes could come soon...

Associated Press

The Biden administration is planning more changes to quicken asylum processing for new migrants

The Biden administration is planning to quicken the asylum processing for new migrants as an interim step rather than an executive order.

4 days ago

Record-setting rally for U.S. stocks reflects inflation slowing down...

Associated Press

Stock market today: Asian shares advance after another round of Wall St records

The S&P 500 jumped 1.2% to top its prior high set a month and a half ago. This move reflects a record-setting rally for U.S. stocks.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

Ukrainian fashion brand in bombarded city picks up and flees