Elle-Ukraine’s editor Sonya Zabouga explains how the brand has adapted to the ongoing conflict in the country.
Before the war we were full of plans: 10 printed issues per year of Elle-Ukraine, four of Elle Decoration Ukraine, including those dedicated to the 5th anniversary of the Ukraine edition. We wanted to build a new strategy for our YouTube channel and we were planning to enrich our editorial portfolio with the new project.
Priorities once the war began
We found ourselves in a very unusual role: we turned from a lifestyle and fashion media brand into a wartime one. Since the beginning of the Russian military aggression in Ukraine, the publication of printed versions of Elle has become impossible due to military operations.
However, despite the circumstances, the editorial office continued its work and decided to do issues in digital format. Work on the publication in a new format began already in the first days of the war, and in just three weeks the first digital issue was already available for free download on the Elle.ua website. It was named HOPE and, unlike the previous ones, was dedicated to topics not typical for the publication. As well as the second number, which came out a little later. Both issues became a kind of military journal, which records Ukrainian modernity.
Today Ukraine is facing hard challenges. We are constantly dealing with blackouts. We can be cut off with no mobile connection for hours or even days, we are searching for options to get some electrical power. Because of attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure there is no light, water and heating in many residential buildings now. Sometimes the only possible way to charge electrical essentials is to go to the Points of Invincibility arranged by government authorities now in Ukraine. They work 24/7, regardless of power outages. The war obliges us to look for new logistical opportunities that will help us to continue our work. A Starlink Station for the office would probably be a good solution.
Protecting the team
It’s impossible to get used to the war. There are Elle editors that can’t come back to Kyiv because they are still suffering from panic attacks. So they work online. There are Elle editors who volunteer to help hospitals and construction companies to restore buildings damaged due to war activity. Despite everything, we are trying to meet in the office at least several days per week. That helps us to keep things going.
Projects to be proud of
This war created opportunities to meet new heroes – ordinary Ukrainians who donated their last money for the army, choose volunteering as the new way of life, go to the frontline because they can’t do nothing when the lives of their families are in danger.
We did a series of projects such as ‘War Diaries’, telling the stories of the people who escaped from the hard war activity zones. They saw everything with their own eyes and the way they talk about their lives during wartime is deeply touching.
One more project we are very proud of is ‘Love Stories’. Even in the most difficult times, people build relationships, register marriages, and give birth to children. That project was planned to support Ukrainian military personnel who got married during the war. It involved a beautiful wedding photoshoot for three couples. It was a truly magical day, full of tears of happiness, exchange of vows and the strongest hugs. The lovers, who are now protecting our country, have not seen their dearest people for several months, so this romantic event has become a good reason for spending time together.
Elle-Ukraine in 2023 and beyond
We have received many questions from readers: will the world see printed versions of the magazines released in digital format? That is why it was decided that these issues must also appear in print.
We are currently preparing a special collection issue dedicated to current events in Ukraine, which will also include digital issues created by the editorial staff of Elle Ukraine. It is going to be called Ukraine 2022 and will be dedicated to what this year has become for our country. In addition to the materials that have already been published, the issue will also include a series of new iconic interviews and materials dedicated to the new Ukrainian reality.
The war still goes on, but so do our lives. We are more than ever concentrated on work; on creating projects to support and inspire our readers.