Valeriya Radchenko is a mother of two children, has master’s degree in psychology, a catering business owner, and a volunteer. Currently, she is a craftswoman in the manufacture of camouflage nets and kikimores at the headquarters of the Women’s Veterans Movement. Valeriya says: “Actually, it’s not hard work, but it requires responsibility. You can’t just weave it and pass it on for the sake of a tick. You have to do your job with full understanding, the best thing is that it really helps.”
Valeria also understands the war as a psychologist: “PTSD is our present, so I am ready to bring benefit not only in weaving camouflage nets, but also to continue what I once started and what I am most effective at – in psychology.”
I wonder how else, besides masking on the front, you can apply pixel grids? Read our interview with Valeria.
How did you meet the beginning of the invasion and join the Women’s Veterans Movement?
On February 24, she woke up with the first explosion. It is impossible to describe the feelings and emotions of that moment. Thoughts were confused, I wanted to wake up again, drink water from a terrible dream. But it was not a dream. For some reason, the ominous word “war” stood in his eyes. I saw it in different colors from deep black to blood red. It was scary to go to the children and wake them up, inform them, tell them. How to say?
With a second loud explosion, she grabbed the sleeping baby and ran to the bathroom. There in the bathroom, looking at her children, she understood complete helplessness. The feelings changed from day to day and maybe even from hour to hour. Helplessness, fear, panic turned into rage, which gave an impetus to act. The first telegram channels, news, explosions, fear in the eyes of children, the helplessness of elderly people, queues of men in military police stations and people! All those people who started to organize roadblocks themselves, like bees flying into a hive, somehow knowing who to do what – all this awakened some new, but familiar feelings. This is probably what is called the genetic code of a Ukrainian. The power that activates you as a mechanism in which there is no place for fear, tears, or panic. Then my action, my little story began. Together with a friend, they delivered and distributed food products for people who were in shelters in a state of complete numbness. Diapers, hygiene, baby food for mothers. At that time, the queues at the military commissariat were very motivating, that Spirit that gave and strengthened strength.
If it weren’t for two minor children, she would most likely join our heroes today.
People became active on all fronts. Some helped with medicine, some with food, some with molotov cocktails, and some with nets. She started knitting at her native school. Most likely, there was a post on Facebook, I don’t remember. The desire to act, help, support was the main thing then, as it is now. Later, the mechanism of analyzing one’s actions and the result worked. They began to look for information, to question the military, to go to master classes so that our work would have results. That’s when my story began, my experience in weaving nets, kikimora – actually, disguise. It started with trial and error to the professional level. We listened to other experts.
For me, the responsibility and desire to help, save, and disguise the life of our defender is the basis on which all our actions rest. Already in the summer, mutual acquaintances introduced me to the Women’s Veterans Movement. Teresa became the face of the Veteranka [Women’s Veteran Movement — ed.] for me personally. After getting to know her and later with other girls, I realized that I was at home.
On August 2, I, along with others, joined the big brave family of Veteranka.
A team of craftsmen
Unfortunately, we have a small but stable team in the field of nets/kikkimore.
The girls came to Veteranka to implement this direction and proudly help mask our female defenders. Came in a team of 7 girls, five remained, but also added:
Natalochka is the wife of one of our defenders, the mother of two beautiful sons, a wonderful confectioner and now a wonderful master of weaving nets and kikimore.
Alinka is our mood and smile, a radio wave. She always has something to tell and talk about. He also comes to help with his son, and even his husband came to help more than once.
Anya is our cold mind and warm heart: a minimum of emotions, more work.
Tatyana is my soul mate. A person with a big heart and soul, whose two great loves in life are her grandchildren and our Women’s Veterans Movement. Well, me too, I hope.
Yulia from Kherson recently joined us. An active girl, a lawyer, who every free hour or weekend always runs to our headquarters to help, weave nets.
The same kikimora and the preparatory material for them take many hours. That is why there are still women who work at home. Like my neighbor, Ms. Marina, whose son went to the ranks of “Azov”, she weaves kikimora by candlelight with joy and pride.
I would also include my family among the assistants of “Molfariya” – this is the name of our space where nets are woven. It is written on the door: “Molfaria” witches’ corner.
My mother sews underwear for the military at home. People call them “families”. I really regret that I never counted. There were already several hundred of them. And the colors and patterns are so fun to sew! I think the boys are satisfied. It was said that such things are popular and cheer up. My dad is a separate topic, because he never refused anything. The frames on which the nets are woven are the work of my dad and his assistants. Part of the frames for weaving “kikimora” is also his work. The lighting of “Molfariya” so that the work does not stop when the electricity is cut off is his work. To inspire his superiors with our work to help purchase materials for weaving, the same spunbond is all he is. And yes, stopping by and bringing sweets to the seagull is already a support for us girls on cool evenings.
Not everyone who comes to help stays for a long time, because this kind of work is not suitable for everyone. This means standing for several hours, at least, on your feet or jumping on a chair from top to bottom near the frame.
We are always happy to welcome new girls to our team.
In general, being in a team of strong, courageous, brave, desperate and simply beautiful women is a matter of pride. Personally, I found my family in Rus’. And even now I catch myself thinking that I am exactly where I should be.
Camouflage mesh, you can say, is the trend of the year, but not everyone knows how to do it correctly. How do you choose the exact pattern, color, materials? How many have grown and what do you use to cover corns?
Regarding calluses: never found on any women’s hands! The only time calluses really happen is when cutting ribbons, if the scissors are awkward and you work for hours cutting the Christmas tree. But we have amazing volunteers who bought us professional scissors, so there is no problem with that.
I never counted how many meters of nets were woven in the last six months. But I will say that each cobweb weaved tens of kilometers. If we count our work in hours, it is also a large amount per day, we often stay up late. Therefore, we have already invested kilometers of tapes and thousands of hours to help our defenders.
A bunch of initiatives weave disguises, and the demand is definitely there. The reverse side of the coin is the availability of materials. At one point, all the generators disappeared from the shelves, was that the case with nets and spunbond?
Spunbond has been used for a long time in agro-industry, medicine, and cosmetology. And when it began to be used for camouflage, Dnipro became our largest supplier. It was they who began to offer colors for masking, paint it with a pixel and cut it into 12-24 rolls for us – these are discs that are convenient to cut into strips. In the summer there were queues, you had to wait a month, but the price remained the same. This idea was picked up by other cities, we are currently ordering in Kyiv, where they have already started to cut the ribbons to the width depending on the customer’s needs. But the net itself, the base – it was much more difficult with it; at first we wove it from harness. One 6*4 grid was woven by craftsmen for about 15 hours, and this slowed down the process. Therefore, they decided to buy the grid, and it is really expensive: the estimated price per square meter is from UAH 50-60 to UAH 100 and above. And our minimum grid is 6*4, 6*9, 6*12. The net has gone up in price, sellers are speculating a little on it, and every month the price of the base goes up, and at one time it was very difficult to find. The base was always on sale, but with such an inflated price that the 6×12 square meter cost about two thousand hryvnias, and it is still necessary to weave material, time, work into it… The mesh, as I say, turned out to be almost golden. Therefore, if we want more or less high-quality, then we stand in line with these basics for a month or a half. They are taken under orders according to lists. This problem still remains.
Have you considered purchasing a warp knitting machine?
Judging by the fact that the base is being transported to Ukraine and it is not cheap, I think the device is not cheap. So far, I have not seen a Ukrainian manufacturer of warps – yes, they are woven by fishermen, they are woven for a long time, to order and the price is not low, especially since it is handmade.
So far, I have not seen a machine that would “mask” the grids by itself. The only thing I’ve seen on the Internet are ready-made “camouflage nets”, but they don’t look like a camouflage net to me. This is actually a pixel cloth, as if cut in such a way that when you stretch it, it forms a kind of camouflage pattern. But, in my opinion, there are no such perfect lines in nature, so the drone will read them easily.
What awaits us after the end of the war?
As a psychologist, I can say that after the end of the war, unfortunately, no less difficult years await us. Long psychological rehabilitation of the population of all age categories is an average of 4-5 years. I really hope for new European social projects that will help civilians, and especially our defenders and their families. The new order and system, the reconstruction of our country in all its spheres will be based on a radically different foundation.
Currently, I feel that my volunteering is not enough, I feel a lot of strength in myself to help people from another side – I am preparing several programs and trainings for psychological support of women and their children. Unfortunately, more and more often I hear requests from mothers, women to help with the psycho-emotional regulation of their condition, their children.
We showed the world an example of colossal unity, we are one whole, one organism. Now is the time for tolerance, dignity, and respect. This will probably become the basis for rebuilding a new, stronger and more modern Ukraine. We have huge potential, I believe that my grandmother will be an example for the whole world.
And as for the skills of weaving, nets or kikimora – I have an exact vision, I think that something similar will enter our life (fashion or style) as design ideas for clothes or interior.
I personally thought that at my parents’ country house, I would already be able to weave a chain link net, thereby helping my mother’s cucumbers to hide from the hot rays of the sun in the cold. Will dad weave a net on the car to prevent extra attention from the birds. Well, it will be possible to weave a shade canopy for children.
After my vacation in Crimea, I will think more precisely where else I can apply my new skills and abilities.