Waxing lyrical: Ukrainian woman stuck here because of the war finds a creative way to fundraise
It's ten weeks since Russian troops invaded Ukraine.
29-year-old Yuliya Gorenko is measuring out wax on the kitchen scales at her boyfriend’s parents home in Thousand Oaks, where she’s preparing to hand-make a batch of scented candles.
Yuliya is from Ukraine, and has been in a long-distance relationship for around four years with her Ventura county based boyfriend.
They’d been planning to move in together in Kyiv in March. She traveled here on Feb 15th.
"On my way here, I was quite concerned but was not ready for what happened at all," she told KCLU.
She had expected to be able to return home to Kyiv, but that became impossible once Russian troops had invaded her home country, on February 24th.
"For the first five days, I didn't sleep at all and I was asking myself, 'do I want to live?' because honestly, do you really want to live in a world where such things are possible?"
She tearfully explained a conversation with her mother inspired her to carry on.
"My mom said, 'You need to continue your life. You got out. Build, build a family. You have to do it for us'.
"These words really helped me and that's what I'm doing now."
So Yuliya set about finding a way to connect with what was going on in her homeland, where her grandfather has remained in Kyiv taking care of her apartment and beloved cat.
Making candles became a form of therapy for her – and a way to raise money for those affected by the war in Ukraine.
"I was not to lose my mind from all the terrible news I was seeing," she told KCLU. The marketing professional had no prior experience making candles, but sourced natural oils and wax, as well as glass containers and lids. She designed and printed labels for the candles, and named it, Scents of Ukraine.
"You know, manual labor helps so much to calm you down.
"I found therapy in the candle-making process."
She’s created unique candles with fragrances which reminds her of happy times in her childhood in Ukraine.
"I said to myself, 'I want to show the beauty of my country.' Before the war happened, our country was so beautiful and I want the world to know this side of Ukraine.
"I selected fragrances that are very personal to me, memories of my childhood, where I would walk in the park or at my grandparents' country house and memories of all the flowers and trees growing in the countryside.
"You're living your life and never realize how precious these things can be to you. I would give anything right now to go back and smell the lilac in front of my house.
"I wanted to create this not only for myself, but for the world to know this about Ukraine."
And it’s not only a percentage she's donating for those affected – Yuliya says the candles are also a way to keep a flame burning for those she’s thinking of in her homeland.