Nadia Hospodaryk is a textile designer and stylist from Lviv, based in Warsaw. She came to Poland 1 year ago and even though the day she left Ukraine was the first day of the Russian aggression against her country, the war wasn’t the primary reason for her moving. She had been planning it for quite some time.
You left Ukraine on the 24th of February last year…
Yes, but I had been preparing for it for a long time. I was supposed to come here in June 2021 but it didn’t happen partly because of my work obligations and partly because of all the bureaucracy I had no energy to deal with at the time. Anyway, literally the day before the Russian attack, I finally managed to get a passport for my cat. I just had a few more things to do and some meetings to attend on 24th of February and I was good to go. It turned out there was no time left for anything. And even though Lviv was quite calm, we could still hear explosions. It was very real. So, I left as soon as possible.
And came to Warsaw?
I came here to live with my partner (he is Polish). Despite the horrible circumstances it went smoothly – my suitcase had been already packed days before the war started. To be honest, I actually kept postponing my departure a little. When you build a life and career, it’s not that easy to just go and start fresh somewhere else. I was thinking – ‘In Lviv I am someone, I have my family here, my friends, my work. What’s waiting for me out there?’
And what awaited you here?
Everything is really great and Warsaw is so beautiful! I had traveled to Poland before, but to be honest it was more of a layover time during my travels to Berlin, Paris and London… I didn’t realize how beautiful Poland was. And even recently we’ve traveled to Naples and that made me think of how clean and organized Warsaw is. It’s a truly great city to live in. And now I have my chosen person here, family, friends and my work! I do feel more like home now.
You are a textile designer and stylist?
Yes. I have been doing it for the past 10 years and I’m very happy I can continue here even though the beginnings were not easy. Now I have my own company in Poland and I’m doing very well but the start was extremely challenging. I was doing everything myself – from purchasing machines to marketing. I got myself a high blood pressure problem because of that. Which leads me to the story of my first clash with the Polish National Health Fund /laugh/.
Once it got dangerous, my blood pressure was really high and I felt very bad. Mariusz took me to the hospital and in the car, I was fixing my make up a little. You see – I really want to look good, always and everywhere. So, he looks at me and asks – ‘What on Earth are you doing?’ ‘Applying a little blush’ – I responded. ‘You cannot do that, if you want to be treated at the hospital’ – he said. And he was right. The first hospital refused to even check my blood pressure. The second said, there were no doctors available. Eventually we went to the private medical center, where they did the check-up and immediately gave me medication. My advice is – if you’re sick and looking for public medical assistance in Poland, do not try to look good and under no circumstances wear high heels, elegant dress and make up /laugh/.
What else have you learnt on such a practical level about life here?
Loads! I’m learning a lot from Poles. I’m used to accepting certain things, I usually just agree and deal with for example some formal things. And Polish people don’t suffer, they fight for what’s theirs. Mariusz taught me that for instance, I do not have to accept a fine, if I don’t agree with it. You need to be active and always stay aware, you need to know your rights and stand up for yourself. And Poles do that! After my adventure with the emergency rooms at public hospitals, I complained to the National Health Fund and this whole case is still going on. I just won’t let it go and it is all for good reasons. If you want a better world to live in, you need to make those changes.
You seem to be really grounded in Polish reality and also your Polish is great!
Oh, I am ashamed of my accent. I’m trying really hard to learn – not only the language but everything about culture here. For example, this Christmas (my first Christmas in Poland) I was very nervous because I really wanted to prepare the perfect Polish Christmas Eve dinner for the family. I took advice from everyone I know and I worked hard on precise recipes /laugh/.
And what’s your take on Poles? Has our attitude towards Ukrainians been changing within this past year?
That is a very complex subject. I’ve seen a lot of different colors here, really. From deep empathy with the Ukrainian nation and great will to help (sometimes even at the expense of oneself), to irritation and disappointment especially when Poles see Ukrainian cars that are better than theirs. They think – ‘We help them, we do so much and they are living better lives than we do’. Bombs do not choose and regardless of the social status, everyone is trying to survive. I always go into conversation about it, at least I try. But with me it’s a little different because in fact I am half-Polish. My mom was Polish but born in Ukraine.
So, your connection to Poland goes way back…
Oh, even further than I expected! I’ve actually recently discovered my family here. Together with Mariusz we went to visit my dad in Ukraine and got to dig in a very old chest that belonged to my grandmother. We found a lot of old letters written by relatives from Poland, dated back even to 1940. It turned out that my grandfather on my father’s side was Polish too… So, my dad is also half-Polish and I guess that makes me ¾ Polish /laugh/. As I dug deeper, I found my actual cousins here. We reunited and our connection is very strong. It seems so obvious that we are related, we have so much in common!
And before you moved to Poland you were dreading life with no roots…
I guess that is my reward for being kind of a ‘positive realist’. You see – I don’t expect things to go my way, but somehow, I always trust in the positive outcome. I’m very happy I found it here.