Vlada. 21 years. Kyiv, Ukraine.

We spotted Vlada outside a small coffee shop opposite the A.V. Fomin Botanical Garden in Kyiv. Here she sits wrapped in a blanket and smokes cigarettes with a thoughtful smile. Her black and reddish-colored hair, pieced nose, and the “fake” and “reality” tattoos on each side of her face attract our attention. She speaks good English and opens up to us almost immediately.

“My Fake and Reality Tattoos is a comment on people’s hypocrisy, how they pretend to tell the truth to others, but in reality, they just become even more fake in doing so since it is their interpretation of the truth that they try to force onto other people.”

Vlada studied as a foreign language teacher in Odessa but left her studies because she believed they were the reason for her increasing depression. Thereafter she went to a therapist and was diagnosed with genetic depression. She shows us cigarette burns on her arms and scars on her legs.

However, she has one great passion in life that keeps her going.

“I want to be a tattoo master. I always have wanted to be that. When I told my mother, she, however, disapproved of it. She told me that all her friends would gossip about me and our family. So I left home and got a tattoo a place where everyone could see it.”

Today she has tattoos all over her body. They are made by different tattoo artists so she could have learned of their professional skills. She doesn’t communicate with her mother anymore.

“My mother still can’t accept it. She doesn’t understand that I want to use my life making tattoos. Going to university and studying language was something she could approve of, even though it made me sick. So now I live my life as I want, trying to save enough money to buy a tattoo machine so I can become a tattoo master.”

Besides being a tattoo artist, Vlada dreams about traveling to Canada. She likes mountains and nature.

“The problem is that I’m afraid of water, and that could be something of a problem in Canada,” she smiles and looks thoughtfully towards the traffic passing by the coffee shop.


Photo: Sila Yalazan

Text: Steen Andersen