Anastasiia Baranova

If someone were to remake “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” Nastia would be the main character.

Volunteer coordinator and accounting assistant Anastasiia Baranova really looks like a princess from a cartoon—luxurious golden hair, slender figure. But in reality, she is a hot-headed tomboy! She can play soccer with the boys, swing a sledgehammer, and severely “chop” tasks for her gnome assistants.

Get to know our active volunteers in the media project “Interview #B50heroes”!

Volunteering in Moschun. Photo: Iryna Rehesha
Read #B50heroes interview with Anastasiia Baranova:
  • about her volunteering to clear the rubble before she joined B50;
  • where she got a volunteer car for the community (yes, that red one);
  • why she decided to change her job in the midst of the war, even though she hadn’t dared to before;
  • what life is like for a princess with feminist views in the twenty-first century.
Age30 years, birthday – June 11
owner of a children’s goods store
volunteer coordinator at B50
going to the theater
Sea or mountains?first she will go to the mountains to actively relax,
and then – to the sea to actively relax there as well
Childhood sportfootball with boys
Favorite foodsweets

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

I am the person for whom the war began on February 24. At about 4:30 in the morning, my sister called my mother. I woke up, went to the TV, and heard an explosion outside the window. My Ruslan barked for everyone to go to bed and not disturb him. But we went with my mom to the kitchen to cook, and do our own thing because it was definitely not time for sleep.

The day before, at work, some colleagues panicked, and people started to leave. A colleague from my office (she is from the Donetsk region) said that she did not believe in anything more serious than what had already happened there. This reassured me, because I didn’t understand how such a huge country could attack such a small one.

I have many relatives in russia, so I didn’t believe it either, but I was still scared. On February 22, I had a nervous day, something was bothering me, but I couldn’t explain it to myself. And in the evening, I received a call from my friends (already acquaintances) from russia, and I was very scared, I don’t understand why. They seemed to be calling just to talk, but then they said: “We will come to you soon and ‘take you away’. Nastia, are you with us?” At the time, I did not understand how this was possible.

Volunteering in Moschun. Photo: Iryna Rehesha

My mother and grandmother are from russia. I spent my childhood there (although I was born and lived in Kyiv). For me, those places were associated with pleasant memories. And now I don’t understand how it is that a place where you felt good is forever closed to you. Because you can’t cross any of your boundaries! The people who were dear to you have become dangerous to you because you don’t know what they will say or what they are ready for. Now I have somehow made peace with this, accepted it, but it was painful, very painful… I used to try to understand why they tell me they love Ukraine, but at the same time they are fighting for russia. I constantly raised this question with a therapist. Now I don’t want to understand anything. It takes a lot of resources, and I don’t have them.

Then my boss called and said I could come to the office (we have a private house with a basement). Terrible times began when I slept in that basement on a chair with a cat. No bed, nothing, and there were 15 of us! And work is not canceled because the 28th is payday. I can’t leave people without money. So on Friday, I calculated salaries in the dark because of the light masking. The banks were slow, but it was good that they sent it to everyone.

Later, I realized that I wanted to go home and that I couldn’t sit around in vain. So I started looking for ways to be useful, found and sent food and diapers. My friends apologized for the requests, but I said, “Write to me; I need it!” I collected things for IDPs and bought shoes for the military in hospitals. Thanks to this, I did not go crazy.

Volunteering in Moschun. Photo: Ruslan Pavliuk

– I know that you had experience in clearing rubble before you joined B50. How did it happen?

My friend Yana Kobets and I went to Irpin for the first time on April 10 (2022 – ed.) to volunteer there. The Romanivskyi bridge was still destroyed when we crossed it on foot, and there were things lying there-a bicycle, a baby carriage, clothes… And you realize that these are not old things; each one has its own story, pain, and horror because people left everything in a hurry with the only desire to survive. It’s scary.

We were cleaning the streets back then. There were a lot of people, and many wanted to help. I realized that I needed to be here. But later I noticed that not everyone was coming to help: some were just taking pictures. This upsets me. I understand that this is to spread awareness, but let’s work too!

At the time, I went with Toloka, but since they were going to Chernihiv for a week and there was a pause, I started looking for other options. I got to Moshchun, and it all started. I realized that people at B50 are sincere! I can’t imagine myself without them. I wait a week to talk to them. I am recharged by the fact that people are willing to give their time, money, and energy to help someone else. This is my joy! When you witness good deeds, you dissolve in them.

Volunteering in Moschun. Photo: Bogdan Holovchenko

– And you got so involved that you became not only a B50 volunteer, but also help with coordination and accounting. How do you manage everything?

– When you don’t know the work of a volunteer organization from the inside, it seems that there is nothing complicated – you come and clean up. But in reality, there is a tremendous amount of work behind it. And people spend their own time on this, for which they do not receive money.

When I coordinate a day, I put myself in the shoes of people who are coming for the first time. It is important for them to have someone come up to them and get to know them. Although I feel more comfortable when people approach me first, because I feel awkward being the first. But I’m the kind of person who likes to be told that something happened because of me. It’s flattering! I take it hard, but I am ready to do everything for this, ready to be a leader. That’s why I try to approach them, to get them interested. And if they say that it was thanks to you that I started coming here… Oh!

Volunteering in Moschun. Photo: Yana Kobets

Regarding accounting at B50, I started by saying that I was delaying my answer for a long time) This is new to me, I have never been a chief accountant, only accountable to him. I was given a task, taught, and here I have to find some solutions myself. And then there’s charity – I don’t know these specifics at all, so I don’t yet understand the responsibility. Currently, my tasks are to distribute the statement, create and pay the invoice, enter the items into the program, and prepare the payment order…

B50 has a consultant accountant, so when I have certain questions, she can tell me how to do it right, she has been “in the business” for a long time. This unravels the tangle for me. So far, B50 accounting is a wall I’m hitting. Perhaps, when I deal with this issue, it will become easier for me. But right now, this is the level I need to reach.

Volunteering in Best Friends animal shelter. Photo: Svitlana Diachenko

– From the outside, it seems that you are quite a creative person. Why did you choose accounting?

– The field of accounting is very close to my heart because of its precision and clarity. I am not a humanitarian at all. I have always been good at algebra and geometry. But now is a special period. I have been thinking about quitting my job for a long time. I went for interviews but came back because I got a raise. Now it’s the opposite; I’ve been demoted because of the war, and my tasks have been cut to the bare minimum. I decided to look for something else. I’m still working out my last days, and then I’m expected to start a new job. I’m also an accountant, but now I’ll be working with machines) I realize more and more that there is no second chance to live life. And I’ve already burned out there…

I also have a small children’s goods store, which I am just developing. The volume is small, but it still takes time. I sell goods for kids—spoons, nibblers, plates, puzzles—and also for mothers—lip balms, body lotions. A little bit of everything. It takes more time, so for now we are still working in small volumes.

I worked for the company I’m leaving for 8 years, although I came to the company on maternity leave (to replace the position of a person on maternity leave – ed.). I started with the primary documentation, and now I keep tax records, statistics, calculate sick leave, payroll, and submit reports. It was also the first time I started exporting and importing.

Before the war, we had a large company, making 200–250 windows a day, which is 400–500 square meters. We helped to build a lot of things, such as the Varshavskyi residential complex, the Great residential complex, and the Galaxy residential complex in Kyiv. Today, the turnover has dropped significantly; little is being built, and fewer apartments are being sold, so there is no need to install windows.

Volunteering in Best Friends animal shelter. Photo: Oleksandr Tishura

– I forgot to mention another interesting role you play at B50: organizing fundraisers. Are you good at it because you are an accountant?

– One day I suggested to Ruslan Habdulov that we raise money for a family to have a modular house. Another Ruslan (a colleague to whom I mentioned the idea) kept asking: “When will there be a post about the fundraiser?” Before that, I didn’t even have a proper Instagram page with 400 followers, and I only posted stories occasionally. But I gave up… It happened that we had just met Yuliia Horbasenko, and she tried her best to help and support me. It was my first large-scale fundraising, the amount was 60500 UAH (1490 EUR/1640 USD – ed.). When I closed the first collection in 2 weeks, I immediately wanted to continue collecting. I am driven by the moment itself, I live for it.

Volunteering in Irpin. Photo: Iryna Rehesha

At first, I was offended when my friends didn’t donate. I didn’t believe that they didn’t have 10-20 UAH. And even though these amounts are important to me, I realize that the person has ignored me! If people I’ve known for years don’t believe me, what can I say about strangers? Now, when I post a post and strangers send me money, they raise me to the highest level and motivate me

Before the war, it was very difficult for me to ask for help. Now I ask so often… I have long since lost the feeling of awkwardness—of needing to explain something, of having to say something. I even have one moment for which I would have been embarrassed before… When we were given a car, I was asked: “Do you need an old Opel Astra,” and I replied: “Can you sell the car there and send us money? The volunteers need a minibus more.” When I was writing this, my face was burning. And then I thought that if I wrote this to the people who donate a car to us, what should I think about the rest.

Volunteering in Moschun

– Nastia, you are a miracle) While few people know that we have this car thanks to you, now they will! Tell us, how did this car come to us from Lithuania, when did you meet the volunteers there, and how did they start supporting the B50?

– It seemed to me that we were waiting forever to get the car! And then I saw that we were offered the car in January and received it in early March! They wrote to me every day to ask if we agreed, how to accept it properly, and what was wrong with the documents. When I saw it in Ukraine, I had the feeling that the car was a gift to me, and it was definitely not an Opel Astra, but at least an SUV. I ran to it with huge eyes… I haven’t driven it yet, but I would like to try it somewhere in Moshchun. I’m happy because it has come to a logical conclusion, and the car is already transporting volunteers.

How did you meet Oksana? One day a colleague came to me and asked if he could put me in touch with Lithuanian volunteers who want to help, send humanitarian aid, or if I would do it for him because he was tired and had a destroyed house near Borodianka. I agreed, but it turned out that the process there was not yet established: to deal with the reception, to prepare documents. We tried, we figured it out, and now the humanitarian aid from Lithuania is coming… Then it turned out that one of those who was sending us the aid was the sister of this colleague.

Organizing the delivery of humanitarian aid from volunteers from Lithuania

When I read the messages that people send her: “Glory to Ukraine!”, ” Hold on, we are worried about you”, it touches me very much, because they don’t know us. And when there are people inside the country who stay away, those who don’t want to get involved because they have their own lives, it’s sad.

Oksana and I are in touch almost every day, and she asks if we need this or that. Food for the animal shelter, candles, clothes, detergents… Once she asked if we needed foam rubber (there is a factory in Lithuania somewhere). We didn’t understand how to use it yet, but when Yana and I saw its quality, we came up with the idea to sew beds for the cats in the shelter.

Volunteering in Best Friends animal shelter. Photo: Bogdan Holovchenko

– Coordination, accounting, fundraising, humanitarian aid, and also work and some kind of life. Tell me: how do you manage that?

– I have gnomes) I call all my assistants “my gnomes”. Without them, I would not be able to do anything. I would like to mention everyone, because the people I have met in my life this year were sent to me for a reason, but it will take a lot of time!

There is Yana Kobets, who always supports my ideas, always follows me. There is Bohdan Zhurskyi, whose support is invaluable. He, like Yana, falls for my adventures). Ruslan Habdulov, who is involved in solving many of my requests. My Ruslan helps me a lot with volunteering – he loads the car, picks up the humanitarian aid, and drives it away. He is proud of me and mentions me whenever he can. This is very important to me. I do a lot for him, and he does a lot for me. We have mutual help. Sometimes our interests do not overlap, because I am more active and he is more passive. But we have been together for over 12 years. Also, my family, which supports my every idea, my colleagues who join fundraisers, and my friends. In general, there are a lot of people who write to me and offer help and support, and without them, I would not have succeeded.

I don’t like to be passive and expect someone to help me carry the bags. Can you do it? Good! If you can’t? Then I’ll do it myself.

It’s a pain for me to have to prove that women are resilient, too. I always try to show that I am a leader (especially in a male team, I am flattered that men can consult with me, take me into account, and listen to me). I can tell you from top to bottom what was done in my apartment in terms of repairs. I can even lift a sack. But it’s offensive that you also have to compete with men, because they don’t want to accept you as a person. You spend energy and strength to do something and then prove it. I don’t know how people used to live if it’s so hard in the twenty-first century!

Volunteering in Irpin. Photo: Denys Khrystenko

– Aren’t you afraid of burning out, losing your energy and desire to help?

– You know, it gives me goosebumps to realize that someone has been volunteering since 2014, and I have done nothing. Why didn’t my eyes open at that moment? Why only on the 24th? I am not saying that I am an evil person. But until the 24th, I only helped animals, because they are unselfish. They don’t need anything from you, except to feed them and stroke their ears. I sent parcels to shelters, and I always had (and still have) food for animals in my backpack. If I see a cat on the road, I will stop and feed it. And I don’t care if someone looks at me funny. Now I continue, but on a larger scale. I help the shelters ” Dvorniashkam dom” and “Best friends”, try to close some of their requests. Every week I go to walk the puppies, bringing gifts.

Volunteering at the shelter “Dvorniashkam dom” (Kyiv)

Now I am afraid of getting tired. Sometimes there are days when I want to be alone. When something doesn’t work out, I get angry, and sometimes I cry. But I don’t get tired! I am ready to go beyond the borders of the Kyiv region (at least for humanitarian aid, at most to clear the rubble). Some people are broken by the image of destruction, but I am not. I realize that it’s not time to stop and that I am not the kind of person who will go abroad.

I am ready to devote my life to making our country prosper. And since we have no children of our own, I am doing this for the sake of my niece (my brother’s daughter), because I want her to live in a country that is free not only from russians but also from destruction.

Volunteering in Moshchun

– What do you think we can expect in a few years? What will happen to the war, what will Ukraine be like, where will you be?

– This is a difficult question for me… Our country is still in a war that will not end this summer. We lost more than we gained, and we had more. People from Donetsk and Luhansk regions are used to living in Kyiv; they have forgotten how they used to live. I don’t want to get used to it. I want people not to accept this life but to keep fighting!

As for me personally, I plan to do the same thing, it will just be bigger. Perhaps this is a bit pessimistic. God willing, everything will be better. And in two years, we’ll meet again, and you’ll give me another interview…

The interview team:

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