Polina Koruts

The B50 red-headed “beast”.

Our fiery light and energy boost. But if someone misses the contour with a brush or offends the weak, you’ve woken up a real typhoon in the artist and administrator of the Shelters project!

Polina is used to relying only on herself, so she is scrupulous about details. She believes that it is impossible to do 100%, but 99% should be achieved. Sometimes she is a lady in a dress with a charming smile, and sometimes she turns on the “Kirovohrad” mode.

Bomb shelter in Hornostaipil Lyceum, Vyshhorod district

Read #B50heroes interview with Polina Koruts:

  • why she has never voted in an election;
  • what it’s like to work as a manicurist in Dubai;
  • how B50 brought back her love of drawing;
  • why she calls herself a snail-artist.
NameKoruts Polina Petrivna
CitySvitlovodsk, Kirovohrad region
Age35 years old, birthday – August 27
Professionmanicurist, at B50 – administrator of the Shelters project, artist
Sea or mountains?mountains, because when he sees them, he has peace of mind
Childhood sportballroom dancing
Favorite foodjust loves to eat, especially potato pancakes and jelly

– Polina, where were you on February 24? How did you know that russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine had begun?

– I slept through the whole thing(( I was always afraid of early calls, and then my phone started ringing. My sister called and said that the war had started. I didn’t understand anything, I thought it was a prank.

I was sure until the last moment that a person cannot have so much shit in his head to start a war. I grew up on stories about a concentration camp (my grandfather worked there) and I don’t understand how modern educated people can make war… I read that troops were being brought to the border somewhere, but I didn’t believe it.

And when a russian armored personnel carrier drove by the windows (it somehow got lost in Obolon in the first days of the invasion), it was the last straw. There was such a roar. Although I don’t want to believe in bad things to the last!

My family drove me to hysteria. My friend and I went to spend the night in the basement of a neighboring house. Although we took something to cover ourselves with, we got very cold, and after that I could not walk – my back was badly hurt.

I stayed in Kyiv for about a week and went to my parents. My niece found volunteers who gave me a ride, and my sister bought the bottom shelf in the train. I had half an hour to pack: I took the cat’s food, a frazier, attachments, tools, base, top, disinfectant for work, and only some underwear for myself. I was sick, the cat was in a carrier and left the house for the first time, my suitcase and backpack. That was the picture…

I have seen such a large number of people at the train station only once before – when Elton John came to Kyiv with a free concert in 2012. There was nothing on the board: neither the time of arrival nor the track. My train was announced much earlier. It wasn’t an evacuation train, but a full carriage was going to Kremenchuk, and we even took a fifth girl with us without a ticket. We also left early, and a little while later my mother called me and said that there had been an air strike on the station… My hands were shaking. We were traveling without light, with battery-powered candles. But the worst thing was when we stopped at a station and a siren sounded: we grabbed for our things, and the conductor yelled: “How will I look for you in the field?”

I came home and exhaled. Everyone met me in silence, everyone was stressed. I was very worried about them when it was loud in Svitlovodsk, and they were worried about me when it was dangerous in Kyiv.

I returned to the capital at the end of May. My clients started writing to me: sending me photos of their nails, what the cuticle looks like. One day I gathered enough work for 6 days and went on a reconnaissance mission. And then I came back in full force. It helped that I work from home.

Bomb shelter in “Kozachok” kindergarten, Bucha

– Did you have many clients at the peak of the combat activities? What kind of manicure was popular then?

– Oh, when the girls started calling, I felt inspired. Everything happened pretty quickly, and by the end of the summer, my income had recovered by 80%. Some of the clients are gone, some left and never returned.

Back then, everyone wanted short nails and light manicures in the summer. But there were clients who asked for something bright, with sparkles, “to gouge out an eye so bright” – to spite the enemy!

At first, I was afraid to book clients in advance, taking them for a maximum of 3 days. After all, there are explosions over there, and here you’d better make it to November.) But now everything is different.

Bomb shelter at primary school No. 10, Vorzel

– You always talk about manicures and your work with such enthusiasm. How long have you been in the profession and how did you start doing it?

– I studied at college to become a hairdresser and manicurist. During my internship in a salon, I tried to do nails and it just took off. And so it has been for 17 years! Hair work didn’t work out, but manicure did… At the beginning, my salary was 3.5 UAH (0.01 USD/EUR – ed.), because a manicure cost 7 UAH at that time))) Now I’ve been working for myself for 10 years.

I am one of those lucky enough to work in a job I love! Manicure occupies a huge place in my life. I really like it, and it also brings me money. I like to do detailed work, I am a “detail person”. Even when I start to paint something voluminous, I still focus on the elements.

Since I’m in close contact with people, it’s exhausting: I spend 12-13 hours a day talking to girls, and I’m a part-time psychologist. A client comes in a bad mood and I lose it too. A cheerful one comes and I have a good one. I am very dependent on their energy.

That’s why I need to be alone sometimes, to turn off my head, to drift off. I’m like a snail: I work and work, then the time comes and I start walking around the city, and then I’m a snail again and don’t touch me!

I still worry about every job every time! My mom said: “When you don’t care anymore, quit”. We are all like that in the family, we worry about our work.

In addition to earning money, I also bear risks: no work, no food. I have no sick leave or vacation. Every canceled client is a loss of money. And I also help with donations.

Bomb shelter in Nova Hreblia Gymnasium, Bucha district

– You made a very good point about the psychologist, because in the beauty industry it’s often the case that you sit down in a chair and spill everything to a stranger, as if they were your best friend… Don’t you, as a part-time psychologist, need your own psychologist after such situations? Don’t you burn out from this?

– Of course, I did. The biggest burnout was after working in Dubai. I didn’t work for three months after that, it was so distracting. I had a very difficult moral situation there, constant quarrels (I worked and lived there with russian women). You just have to get over it…

– In Dubai as a manicurist!!!? How did you get there and what were you looking for?

– My friend persuaded me to go. She worked there and loved the life there. I agreed spontaneously. I’m the kind of person who just clicks and goes. When the doctor says that I can take tests tomorrow, I take them today, because I may not want to tomorrow. It was the same with Dubai.

I arrived there in the winter, in early January. On the third day, I went to work in a beauty salon. I worked on the outskirts of Dubai. Our clients traveled 2 hours in one direction to get their nails done. In such conditions, doing things poorly would not work.

The language was not required there: clients often spoke russian, and our director spoke English well. There were also hairdressers from Ukraine in the salon who spoke a foreign language and helped. At school, English was easy for me, and after that I didn’t study it at all. But after a month, I started to speak a little bit and was able to work.

We had clients from all over the world. It was impossible to understand their accents. For example, we often served flight attendants from Emirates Airline, and among them were representatives of Latin America, North America, Africa, Europe, Australia, and Asian countries. I’ve heard almost every language in the world! I worked with all kinds of skin! It’s a pretty cool experience for a manicurist.

But it was also stressful for me. In Ukraine, nail technicians are treated more humanely, in Dubai it’s different. When you come there as a tourist, it’s one thing, but when you work, no one cares about you, they just want to make money. You can work hard, but if you don’t know your official rights, you will be bent over backwards. When I started, I didn’t know anything about the rules, but after six months I could easily snap at our director because she did bad things to employees, to put it mildly. After I left, the girls even took her to court.

Bomb shelter in Hornostaipil Lyceum, Vyshhorod district

– So you had some real Middle Eastern adventure there! How long did you stay in Dubai?

I was there for a year, although my contract was for two. One of the reasons was the difficult working environment.

In Dubai, I got into a company of russians, worked and lived in a studio apartment with them. And they are “quarrelsome”. Everything was wrong for them: the apartment was wrong, the work was wrong. They were constantly discussing the director, stirring up negativity, slacking off while the management was not looking. It was hard for me to stand it.

We also had a very nasty director. We were on a fixed salary of 4,000 local money. According to the rules, she was supposed to raise the salary by 500 money only after six months. But she raised my salary in a month so that I wouldn’t leave. I’m quite reserved in my work, I can’t work quickly, and my quality drops. But at the same time, I had 90% of clients returning and repeat bookings. I had to keep it all a secret.

To top it all off, one day the air conditioner caused my back to hurt. My whole right side was jammed. I cried when I had to choose the color of the nail polish, and clients had to drive me to the rack in my work chair, I did not walk. For a whole year at work, they promised me insurance, but I couldn’t stand it and bought a ticket home and went for treatment. It was mid-December, and the director was very angry because there were pre-holiday appointments. So I was crawling around the house on all fours in pain, and she was worried about the appointments, can you imagine? When I was packing, I realized that I was not coming back.

It turned out to be 11 months in total. I realized that it was very difficult for me to be away from home. At first everything seems very beautiful, but then you realize that everything is artificial: grass, wheatgrass, glass, concrete, sand. And the heat is incredible, 60 °C in summer! I really like the change of seasons. It’s the same 24/7. And the sun goes down at 7 p.m. Because it’s closer to the equator, you always leave work in the dark.

Bomb shelter in “Kozachok” kindergarten, Bucha

– Is it easier with Ukrainian clients and salons? What do you value most here?

– Here I can choose my own clients, because I work for myself. I rarely say no, but I do. When people ask me: “‘Polia, can I give them your number? There is a potential client there,” I always ask: “Is she ok?))”. Calmness in my work is very important to me.

Some people say that it is unacceptable to have a friendly relationship with a client. But I can’t do otherwise. 15 years is the longest I’ve been with a client, and she’s been coming to me since she was in my town.

Do you know why they come to my house? Because people can talk, eat, take off their jackets. It is very important to me when clients are grateful and can talk freely, not like in a salon. No one should fit into this space of two people – the nail technician and the client. People come to me to relax. There are teachers, especially first-grade teachers, and they often sleep. Many come to talk, and some come to sit in silence.

Clients come to me as if I were their home. But there is a disadvantage – some people take the fact that I work from home as an excuse to be late. I can understand clients with children or who have a long commute. But when it’s my neighbor who lives two houses over, I get annoyed.

And no one is interested in the cost of disinfectants, kraft bags, how much electricity is spent on the dry heat (and it consumes like a welding machine and works at least 1.5 hours a day). That my microstop costs about 10,000 UAH , that I have two fryers for 7,000 UAH, that I buy disinfectant for 1,000 UAH/liter. I have just bought Ecoflo, and I am preparing to work in blackouts.

Decoration of the B50 warehouse in Moshchun

– What has always scared me about manicurists who work from home is safety and cleanliness. They rarely bother with this. They put these quartz balls, sprayed with antiseptic, and that’s it. But this is dangerous. Firstly, for clients, and secondly, for the nail technicians themselves…

– If you see glasperlen sterelizator being applied, run away!

Look, for normal processing of the tool for work, there must be a consistent temperature regime, the entire surface must be covered, that is, the tool must be completely in the solution and in the drying agent.

I have this position: if a master works at home, this is not a reason to limit the disinfection of instruments. There are sanitary standards that everyone must follow. I charge a little cheaper than in a salon because I don’t pay rent. But no matter where you work, you should have a well-made tool and high-quality materials. I have a dry heat gun, kraft bags for sterilization. I send those with skin problems to a podiatrist. Health is important!

I’m also against disposable brushes because a lot of plastic is thrown away and not recycled. I leave nail files in separate bags at the client’s request. There is a lot of disposable stuff in manicure.

Bomb shelter in “Kolosochok” kindergarten, Borodianka

– How did you get involved in B50? When did you find out about us and how did your volunteer work begin?

I have always wanted to help people. Somehow I came across B50 on Instagram. I started looking at you. For the first time, I went to clear the rubble in Moshchun last summer. I had never seen the destruction before, and for the first 20 minutes I just stood there. You walk through the rubble, and this is someone’s life. We were cleaning the destroyed kitchen. I learned how much refrigerators stink. We were cleaning, and a neighbor woman offered us water. It was so touching, because her house was also destroyed, she didn’t even have a table, and she was there for us…

On the first day, I was badly sunburned and very exhausted, thinking that my sore back was done. But I woke up the next day and it didn’t hurt at all. Maybe it was due to some emotions?

Later, I went again, brought my friend Ksiukha, then Ania. Then I brought some more people along, and we even came in two cars once.

And then I saw a request for the drawings in the shelter.

Volunteering in the Clean Up! project, Moshchun

– Look, you paint all the time at work, and then you’ve been volunteering at B50 for over a year now to paint bomb shelters. Isn’t it too much? Doesn’t it get boring?

– On the contrary! Thanks to B50, I started painting again. When I paint, I get high, it’s a reboot for me. I used to be able to paint all night, but now I don’t feel time. And with the war, it was hard.

I visually love beautiful things and am very happy when I make a something perfect. It’s energy-consuming, but it’s so cool. It’s from the category of inspiration.

Carrying bricks and painting are very different things. Painting is more like meditation. You get lost in the process. And when you work hard, your brain reboots, you are focused on your work. You’ve worked hard, you’re tired, but you feel better mentally.

– What is the hardest part of your job as an administrator of the Shelters project? How do you develop the concept of a bomb shelter in general?

– I have a lot of my own artistic work here. That’s why I’m more of a deputy than a leader, because I’m not that assertive. I always doubt my abilities and the quality of my work. But then I take it and do it. Because until you do, you won’t know what you can do! Sometimes I get hysterical that I’m not doing well. Then I cry, wipe my snot, eat a chocolate bar, and continue working.

Sometimes I feel more comfortable as an administrator because I know where, when, and how. I need to know some things for sure. Now I know who to write to, who to ask, who to take, who to put where.

Sometimes we inspect very scary premises. It seems to me that this is some kind of torture chamber, not a shelter for children. And I always think: yes, we need children to think that they are outside when they are sitting in the bomb shelter, that there is green grass, trees, something bright.

Sometimes we come up with something, and then we arrive, and the walls are crooked or the plaster is falling off. So we have to change something along the way. I do some of the painting, and volunteers do others. Sometimes it happens that we need to correct, redo a little, because not everyone knows how to paint, some people are holding a brush for the first time. And it’s always exciting, a little nerve-wracking, because I want to do everything as well as possible.

I consider Bohdanivka to be my signature piece among all the objects I’ve made. I really like this style, I would like to paint my rooms like this.

Bomb shelter in Bohdanivka Lyceum, Brovary district

– How long do you think Ukrainian children will need bomb shelters? What does the future hold for us in this country?

This is a difficult question. It seems to me that the spaces we have created are multifunctional. They can be shelters from missiles, and children are really safer there. They can also be just classrooms, playrooms. Of course, we want it to be faster. But I don’t see any such prospects at the moment.

As for the future, no one in my family has ever been interested in politics. Do you know that at the age of 35 I have never voted in an election? Yes, all this time I was not on the lists! When I first turned 18, I came to the polling station at my school, all dressed up, and was told that I was not on the voter list and that I had to write an application beforehand. I was so offended that I refused to write it on principle. And it was only during the last election that I received an invitation for the first time (but I couldn’t come to the city).

All the events that are happening now have changed my attitude. And now I want to help, I want to voice my position, I want to vote.

Bomb shelter in Hornostaipil Lyceum, Vyshhorod district

The interview team:

  • Coordinator – Anna Norynska
  • Interviewer – Nataliia Hryniuk
  • Transcriber – Nataliia Komisarova
  • Editor – Svitlana Rudokvas
  • Build editor – Bohdan Holovchenko
  • Translator – Yuliia Habdulova