Horse Sport was recently contacted by a photographer and graphic designer from Ukraine, Yanina Salkova, who has been in the business since 2012 and was hoping to find work in Canada – and a respite from the war which has been raging for over six months in her country. Yana specializes in pictures of horses, dogs, children, people, “moments of life” as she describes it. Without a vehicle, she travels by public transport “and local athletes help me get to the competitions; it supports and motivates me so much!”

This is her story.

“I am from Ukraine; my whole life, parents, dogs, clients, almost everything is left in Ukraine where unfortunately, there is still a war. We lived in Odessa, we had a lot of animals, most of them are already at an advanced age.

All of us did not believe that the war had begun, but that morning it seemed like some kind of dream. Kyiv had the hardest time at that time, and Kharkov suffered very badly, a lot of stables burned to the ground along with the animals. These were terrible losses for everyone, but what was worse was that a real, full-scale war broke out throughout Ukraine.

The first 30 days I spent in the country, the sound of constant sirens terribly disturbed the mind, as well as thoughts about the future, and how to live on. After the start of the war, time stopped. We all knew about the war only from books; it seemed terrible and you always think ‘how this can happen again, it’s not civilized at all.’

“I drew this sketch after the news that the stable “Grandmother’s Garden” near Kiev burned down. Burned down with my friends’ horses. This was my personal first shock, along with the bombing of the Best Friends Animal Shelter. It was the first realization that all this horror was true.”

Naturally, the first thing everyone began to think was what would happen to the food, what would happen to the animals, where to run during an alarm? This is real human panic and eternal anxiety. You go to bed with one thought: to wake up tomorrow. Of the everyday issues in your head, only to stay alive, and that all your relatives are safe. Work, ordinary life, walks with the dog at sunset, trips to the store – it all becomes unimportant. There are only thoughts in your head that during a walk with the dog, anxiety would not start because you need to run home before the curfew so as not to violate it.

Before the war, I was engaged in photography, advertising and design. Events, show jumping, dog shows, agility. I would never have thought that life could end so easily, but at the same time I am still alive and breathing. It was quite difficult for me to make the choice to leave the country, my parents and my dog. I promised myself that we would live a happy life, grow old in our house and stop postponing life for later. I saw the best 2022 for myself, but how wrong I was.

Now there is a whole continent between me, my animals and my family. It’s hard to accept, even though I’ve been in Toronto, Ontario for three months, that a full-scale war has been going on in my country for half a year. Every day I think about my family, about the dog, about the house we lived in. About the people who remained in Ukraine. The war ruined the lives of 38 million people and their families.

I recently visited Niagara Falls and was happy to stay for the fireworks in the hope that my noise phobia from rockets was gone, but all I felt from the fireworks was the fear of the sound and the reminder that my country was on fire. Russia has taken a normal life from me; I sincerely hope that Canada will help me feel like I used to be.

I have met wonderful people here, although I don’t speak English well. I was taken in by a girl from the world of [Quarter] horses, breeder Mallory McKewen. Their family showed me from the very doorstep what wonderful people are in Canada! I am immensely happy that I ended up in Canada, and I have the opportunity here to continue what I did before…”

You can view Yana’s images here and her Facebook page here.

(Nika Parsoni photo)