Anastasiia Chaikina

If you see a girl loudly telling jokes at the location while holding a huge sledgehammer, it will definitely be our active volunteer Nastia, who goes by the call sign “Chaika” (“Seagull”).

Her sense of humor, charisma and philosophical attitude to life attract the attention of others and accompany her in everything (even in this interview).

Volunteering in Moshchun. Photo by Iryna Rehesha

Read #B50heroes interview with Nastia Chaikina:

  • how the strongmen dragged Nastia into clearing the rubble;
  • why she considers a sledgehammer to be her “signature” tool;
  • about the top types of high while volunteering with B50;
  • what prompted her to choose the design profession.
NameAnastasiia Chaikina
Age39 years old, birthday – October 16
Professiongraphic designer, active volunteer at B50
Hobbiesswimming, lying on the couch, watching TV shows, drawing graphics
Sea or mountains?when the war is over, for any money she will buy a ticket for the first flight Kyiv-Antalya. And will eat the sea, sleep in the sea, put the sea in her pockets, and pick up stones on the beach)
Childhood sportswimming
Favorite foodsushi, shashlik, various types of pasta with meat/seafood/spinach, moti cakes

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

– Yes, I remember… But first, a little background: my cousin celebrates her birthday on February 22. And last year at this time we were discussing in our girls’ chat room ” Chickens & Dummies” that there were russians on the border, laughing at the question “what will we do if war breaks out?” because we had to go to the celebration (it’s been a tradition for 10 years now – we gather in a certain company).

On February 24, at 5:30 in the morning, my friend called me: “Well, we’ve had a good laugh – that’s enough. Pack your things. The war has started”. Actually, I have been sleeping with earplugs for the last 5 years, so I didn’t hear the sounds of the explosion. I got out of bed, opened the curtains, and in front of the house, the Kiltseva Road (Ring Road) was paralyzed in both directions, and there was a long line to the ATM under the house.

This is some kind of misunderstanding! What kind of bombing can there be in the 21st century? The whole civilized world is watching this, have you gone completely crazy? What are you doing?” were my thoughts. I still do not believe in what is happening, even though more than a year has passed.

Volunteering in Moshchun. Photo by Anastasiia Baranova

I went to my parents, who live nearby. We were sitting there watching TV and had no idea what to do next. I told them that we needed to do something useful, because we would be “fell appart” until the evening. I wrote to a friend: “There are two pairs of free hands in Borshchahivka.” She gave me the number of volunteers who were weaving camouflage nets in the “Kolibris” area. I went there with my mom every day for about 2-3 weeks. And it helped a lot morally. There were volunteers there who had been involved in the fighting since 2014, and they knew what was going to happen and how it was going to be. We were among the people who explained certain algorithms of events to us, and it was very reassuring, and we were also doing a useful job.

I temporarily moved to my parents’ private house, took my cats and computer, and threw my documents, money, jewelry, and some clothes into a small suitcase: “It’s just for a little while. Well, for a week at most.” As a result, I returned from my parents only in May))

Volunteering in Moshchun. Photo by Artem Rudokvas

– To put it mildly, weaving camouflage nets and cleaning up the ruins of houses are different types of volunteering. When did you feel the urge to help in a “power” way?

– After the liberation of the Kyiv region, I came across an announcement in Borshchahivka’s Facebook group that the Strongmen Federation of Ukraine was going to clean up the consequences of the occupation in Makariv. I wrote to the coordinator and called my friends. Local municipal workers gave us equipment on the spot. We cleaned up the area around the supermarket where the plane had hit and the broken bridge. The locals joked that it was cleaner after us than before the war. By the way, that day there were almost more journalists than volunteers.

Afterwards, we had to reinforce a certain interesting object in Bucha with sandbags. Later on, the coordinators of the Strongmen team switched to another type of volunteer activity – assistance in the Kharkiv sector – which was less relevant for me, because I wanted to do something with my hands.

And then in the summer, I saw an announcement from Ruslan Horovyi (before these events, I had come across his work at the “Na Shapku” charity performances) that volunteers were needed to clear the rubble of destroyed houses in Moshchun. Oh, it was just for me! That’s how my career as “Miss Sledgehammer 2022” began)))

Volunteering in Irpin. Photo by Nataliia Hryniuk

– I remember well your first day of volunteering with B50, we were at the location together. Do you remember? What was your first impression of the tasks?

Of course. It was June 30, 2022. The day before, I left my phone number, and Elmira and Valia immediately wrote to me, as they were also traveling for the first time. We coordinated where to meet and how to get there. It was the first trip with B50 for all three of them. We were all a little nervous, we didn’t know how to do anything, we might do something wrong.

We all gathered near the bullet-riddled “heart” (a street art object in the shape of a heart – ed.) in the center of Moshchun. We got to know each other. Everything was well organized: where to meet, where to go, what to do. We were given buckets, shovels, and pointed to the work front. I remember that it was very hot that day, the first facility in the open, not a single shred of shade. We were clearing the yard of a shop on Vyshneva Street. We did it quickly and went to the next site. In the yard was the owner, Grandma Olya, and her daughters. It was hard for the old lady to walk, so she sat on a small stool in the middle of the destroyed house and tried to shovel the burnt bricks into a bucket with an ash scoop from the stove. And here we were, a bunch of girls with only one guy. “Oh, my God, you’re girls, where are you going to carry something so heavy?” As a result, “you girls” cleared almost the entire house in half a day, and even managed to break the stove’s horn))) How long would it have taken these elderly people to dismantle the two-story ruined house and outbuildings? A year?

The next day we were “dying”. Although I had been going to the gym before and was used to physical activity. But I wasn’t ready for digging bricks out of the ashes))) To this day, after Moshchun, when I get behind the wheel, I grip it with three fingers, like a parrot, because I think I can feel the crepitus even on my nails!

Volunteering in Moshchun. Photo by Nataliia Hryniuk

It’s so cool that people go to such events, because they have organized everything and are involved. It’s not just an activity for the sake of an activity. This is a very important thing for those who need help.

If I don’t come today, it will mean that, conditionally, fewer buckets of bricks will be taken out, the wall will not be dismantled, etc. So someone else has to do the work for you. Even if the volunteer comes for just one day, it’s still important! I have friends who came once, and helped as much as they could. It’s a drop that makes a stone go round (little strokes fell great oaks).

I don’t see these trips as something forced. Each of us does our best as much as we can. I remember that we had a volunteer who, after an hour and a half of work, did not feel very well. She couldn’t carry the buckets anymore, but she made tea for all of us, which was very appropriate because it was already quite cold. Each of us has a certain limit. Sometimes I realize that today I can’t carry these buckets, but I can sort and stack bricks.

Volunteering in Moshchun. Photo by Oleksandra Poliakova

– All your life you have been holding brushes and a computer mouse. How did it happen that a sledgehammer ended up in these delicate hands?

I really like quick results because I’m impatient. You can spend the whole day at a site and drag a billion buckets out of a broken house, but you will still have an endless pile of garbage in front of you. And a sledgehammer is a quick result: there was a wall – there is no wall.

Plus, working with a sledgehammer has a certain therapeutic effect. I imagine the russians who destroyed this particular house, and I put everything I have accumulated into each blow.

There is also a certain miscalculation in this: where to hit so that the wall quickly collapses in the direction you need. I get satisfaction when everything works out the way I want it to.

I was born in a private house, we didn’t have a farm in the classical sense (cattle, vegetable garden), but the territory required the ability to handle a rake and a shovel. My grandfather worked at the Antonov Scientific and Technical Complex, and he even taught me how to solder. He himself liked to tinker and experiment. For example, he created a kind of “Frankenstein” out of three TV sets: the first TV was plugged in, the second had an image, and the third had the sound controlled. That’s why I have been mastering all kinds of tools since childhood.

I have also mastered the punch and jackhammer. А! Well, I also have one broken sledgehammer to my credit. In my defense, it was on a full moon, and it was a hard week)))

Volunteering in Moshchun. Photo by Iryna Rehesha

– What else do you get a kick out of when you volunteer to do cleanups?

First, from people. I don’t even know how to describe it properly: when you work alongside someone who is completely on your vibe, you have to try it at least once. It’s like we’re all completely different, but we work together as one organism at that moment. And also from what you see before/after. You realize the result of your efforts: the yard was destroyed, and now we have left a clean area. Oh, and it was especially “awesome” to work in the winter when the electricity was cut off))) I have personal heating at home, which is powered by electricity, which means that if there is no electricity, there is no heat or hot water. Once, in early January, when we returned from Moshchun, my feet got very wet and frozen. It was cold and damp, and it was getting dark. When I returned home, I realized there was no electricity. And therefore, nothing else. I pulled off my wet, cold socks, overalls, and thermal jacket. I think: “Now I’ll just wash my hands and go to my mom’s house for a normal bath.” I wash my hands and hear the stabilizer on the boiler click… There is light! There is hot water! And it’s such a thrill to get into a bath with almost boiling water after a day of work in the cold yard!

It’s also great in the summer, when it’s really hot and you’ve worked hard, to go and soak your feet in cool water. One of the sites had a “secret garden,” as we called it, a small stream behind the city, hidden in thickets of blackberries and plum trees: clear water, yellow sand at the bottom, and plums that occasionally fell into the water. Last year, we talked all summer about going somewhere to swim after work. All summer long we went to Moshchun, past the lake. And we never got there.

Volunteering in Moshchun

Physical work helps a lot to ” clear your head”. Anyone can find a reason to be depressed: a homeless person or a millionaire… And when you feel that this state is about to come, go and help someone who is even worse off. For example, my parents’ private house: everything in this house is dear and close to me. Other people have the same. But their houses were destroyed, trees were mutilated, fences that their parents and grandparents had built were torn down, family heirlooms were burned… All the owners of the destroyed facilities where we worked were not longing for gold or anything like that. They were sorry for the photos or things that, for example, were left by their son who died in the war. And now this memory has disappeared.

When I want to whine about my personal or professional problems, I remember that I have everything: an apartment, a car, a healthy head, intact limbs, and a job. And we go to clean up someone’s destroyed house, realizing that it’s ridiculous to whine about the fact that, say, eggs have gone up by 20 UAH.

Volunteering in Moshchun

– You can talk about two things with equal enthusiasm: volunteering with B50 and your work as a designer. Do you remember how you chose your profession?

I studied in a class with advanced chemistry and biology, it was considered “medical”, our graduates were mainly aimed at entering medical school. But I realized that I was too lazy for medicine. I have no desire to memorize. If I read the information and immediately memorized it, great. But if not, I won’t be able to absorb anything else. Medicine requires perseverance. I still remember, for example, the lyrics of the songs we wrote in 1998 to participate in the district competition, but I don’t know what a zygote is, even though I loved biology.

My parents are classical school architects who were taught to draw with their hands, so we always had paints, pastel crayons, pencils, and felt-tip pens at home. To our parents’ credit, they not only didn’t forbid us to touch them, but encouraged us to draw. After consulting with my mom, we decided that I “couldn’t handle medicine”. We talked about what else I was more or less able to do and liked to do – drawing. In fact, that’s how I chose my profession. Perhaps I would have made a good doctor. But we will never know 🙂 .

Later I entered the Boychuk Academy of Decorative and Applied Arts and Design. The graphic design faculty I chose had the highest competition for one place. After all, it was in demand: starting from a banal newspaper ad, outdoor advertising, and much more, it was all the work of a graphic designer. And then the Internet became even more widely available, and the range of work expanded significantly.

Among the graduates of our academy are world-famous artists and the designer of Mercedes McLaren supercars. And there’s me, who hauls bricks in Moshchun)))

Volunteering in Moshchun. Photo by Nataliia Tsyhanenko

I have many clients outside my main job who involve me in Ukrainian or foreign projects. Sometimes it’s nice to see a car on the road with an advertisement I created. It’s a kind of ego boost.

Sometimes I collaborated with journalists conducting various investigations. I helped them with print materials and banners for social networks. It is a pleasure to work with such people not even because of the opportunity to earn money, but simply for the sake of the idea. I’m an adherent of the idea that work will be done well in two cases: either for money or for an idea. And here we have two factors at the same time!

There’s a saying that goes, “Find something you like to do and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I like to lie on the couch and watch TV shows. Unfortunately, this work is not paid. Otherwise, I would earn very well 🙂

Volunteering in Moshchun. Photo by Oleksandra Poliakova

We have dealt with the present and the past. Now let’s talk about the future. Ukraine in two years – what is it like, what kind of people live here, what stage is the war at? What is your role in this country?

I don’t know about myself. Because if someone had told me a year ago that I would voluntarily go to the countryside to carry buckets of bricks, I would not have believed them. As I said, I am a rather lazy person. I like the state of conditional tranquility.

Any war ends. No one can predict how exactly and how quickly it will happen. There are a million different options and factors. It’s like the “butterfly effect”: an accidental shot at a russian general can lead to a change of power in russia in a week.

Everyone says that it will be very difficult for Ukraine after the war. The economy is at the bottom. The West will help us, but let’s face it: we have enough internal political and domestic problems that we will need to solve on our own. It will be important not to miss the moment, like in 2004, when we had a great opportunity to change course. Not to neglect the trust, not to “lose” the level of self-organization that we had at the beginning of the war. We should not celebrate endlessly, like the russians with their “dedi vayevali”(“grandfathers won”). We will need to unite very strongly and make an incredible amount of effort to bring the country back to at least the state it was in before the war.

Volunteering in Irpin. Photo by Iryna Rehesha

I understand that it is selfish on our part, but I hope for the military. I want people who have seen the war with their own eyes to come to power, and they will make every effort to prevent what they have experienced from happening again. Yes, I realize that this is wrong. That military rule is probably the worst possible option. For now, we all owe our existence and relative well-being to our armed forces. These are the people who see everything from the inside. Because a person who has experienced war will do everything possible to prevent this horror from happening again in the future.

The interview team:

  • Coordinator – Anna Norynska
  • Interviewer – Nataliia Hryniuk
  • Transcriber – Maria Naumchyk
  • Editor – Kateryna Lehka
  • Build editor – Bohdan Holovchenko
  • Translation – Yuliia Habdulova