Swedish brand Vandra produces its rugs in Ukraine, and in 2022 found its production in Kakhovka under Russian control. Through Vandra co-founder Larissa Bodén Lucy Upward speaks to four of the weavers who had to move their work and home to Kosiv last year
How has the move been to a new location in Ukraine?
Oksana Agatjeva: Moving in general is always complicated, especially if you are leaving for an indefinite period. It wasn’t like a work trip, when after a week or two you are going back home. We didn’t know when we would be back, what to pack, and that made us really anxious. There were at least twenty checkpoints to go through on our way. It was nerve-racking to have all our belongings checked by an armed soldier. So, the move caused a lot of stress, and it took us up to two months to get used to the new place. On the bright side, we knew that Larissa had already found us a place to live and where to continue our work, so it helped to keep us calm.
Olena Derykhovska: It was incredibly hard. We had to move, and not because of our own will, and we didn’t even know for what period of time we were going to be away from home. We left our relatives, friends and our own homes there.
Lyudmyla Atamanenko: It is difficult, because my relatives remained in the occupied territory
Julia Zubok: Of course, the move affected me, because being home is always the best. I wish our weaving atelier could progress not only in Kosiv, but in Kakhovka too.
How is weaving seen as a job in Ukraine?
OA: Back when we started working, the weaving business wasn’t that big in the south of Ukraine. It wasn’t popular with the younger generation either. But no matter what age, as soon as you start working at the atelier, you don’t want to leave. It’s fascinating to see the progress of your work. When we moved to the west of Ukraine, it was clear that weaving was more common here, more women could either weave or at least knew about it. I am sure, though, that we are going to spread the knowledge about weaving further and that it has good prospects in Ukraine.
OD: Weaving is an interesting and creative work that requires inspiration and attention. It has also helped me to get through these difficult times.
LA: It’s great, I really like it!
JZ: For me, weaving is something that inspires, and I enjoy my job greatly.
Did you know how to weave before you joined Vandra?
OA: No, I didn’t know how to weave, I used to work as a seller at the open market. When Larissa was looking for workers at the atelier, I decided to try because it was interesting. We then received training from Swedish weavers. This was fifteen years ago.
OD: I had very little understanding of weaving. I’d only heard some stories from my grandmother.
LA: No, I didn’t know how to weave at first. Back then, I was working in a completely different field as a chemical laboratory assistant.
JZ: No, I didn’t know about weaving before joining the atelier.
How do you feel about the beautiful rugs you make?
OA: All the work starts from a sample, and from such a little thing you get to create something incredible. Obviously, not all rugs are in my style, but I can always imagine them as a part of the interior, which helps to see them in a new light. You won’t believe how a beautiful rug can change the whole room. Every one of them has something exceptional and exclusive.
OD: I always feel satisfied with the work that is done, but the end result is always a client that is happy with the product.
LA: At first, I looked at the rug and wondered, ‘How will I managed to make it?”. But then I felt so satisfied and proud of myself, because I created such a beautiful thing!
JZ: I feel proud of the work that is done.
Is there a rug or design you would really love to make for yourself?
OA: Not every rug that I weave makes me think, wow, I would like to have a similar one at my place. The way the room is styled, and even a different room lighting, it can change the way you feel about it. I don’t have a particular favourite one yet, because I weave so many unique and one-of-a-kind rugs that it’s impossible to choose one.
OD: My dream rug: a tapestry of my home town, Kakhovka!
LA: Every time I make a rug, I think if I would like to make a similar one for myself, but it’s so hard to choose, because they are all so wonderful in their own way.
JZ: I think when someone chooses patterns and colours, there should be an individual and special approach, as every weaving technique is beautiful in its own way.