A few weeks after the full-scale russian invasion Ukrainian writer Iryna Tartachna launched a website "I feel your pain" to help women who have suffered from sexual violence. Having gone through this terrible experience herself several years ago, Iryna was able to fully recover mentally and regain her joy and satisfaction from life and sex. It is precisely her personal experience of being victim of violence and overcoming its consequences that makes her project important and useful for many - heartbreakingly so.
I was born in Zhytomyr Oblast, but the place that has always attracted me, no matter how many missiles hit it, is Kyiv. I write books. I’ve published my first book in English, it is called "Winged by Happiness". It is about finding happiness and meaning in your life, after losing it, and how with the help of a few words everything can be changed.
About her work during the war
Two years ago I was sexually assaulted. When in April I started reading about mass rapes in Bucha and other towns of Kyiv region, I was deeply shaken. No one knows what these women feel and how to help them. I understood why they would be silent, why they would not go to a psychologist, and I understood that I should overcome my fear and help them. Literally overnight I wrote everything that I have now posted on the website - about how to help oneself, how to help these women, and how men should treat them. Every sentence there is the result of two years of psychological work on myself after the horror that I’ve experienced. At moments like that you look deep into your soul. I wanted to show on my own example that it is possible to continue to love men, to have sex and enjoy it, to live happily, to forget what happened to you there at all, not to think of it when it does not hurt you any longer. I wanted to give hope that there will be happiness tomorrow, despite how bad today feels and looks. You need to know how to help yourself, because when you know, you can accept this pain, and tomorrow will open the door to happiness for you. My main message was from Taras Shevchenko, his famous words - "make love, black-browed", because I really want all women who have suffered from sexual violence during the war to be able to regain the joy of life and sex to the fullest extent.
When I published the website, I felt very relieved from the understanding that I had done something that would be useful and help many. Then a lot of people started writing to me and saying thank you. We really have no idea how many women suffer from sexual violence, not even during wartime - because so little is said about it. Therefore, it is important for me that as many people as possible see this project and find out how to communicate with those who have experienced it. The main thing that I wanted to convey to women is the understanding that it is not your fault, all the blame and responsibility is on the person who did it.
For me beauty is an internal perception of myself, and an internal perception of everything around. And this feeling has stayed with me through war. At a certain point, because of the violence I experienced, I also felt guilty for being attractive, because it seemed that it was what brought me that suffering - but it was not true. For a rapist, it doesn't matter what you look like or what you're wearing. It is not that you lure someone with your appearance and provoke them to violence. If someone is already capable of violence, then he has psychological deviations, and the act of violence is his fault and his responsibility, not the fault or responsibility of the victim.
About beauty rituals
One of the few things that helped me in the first weeks was practicing a full self-care routine every morning. I even noticed that I used a lot of body creams during the first 3 months of the full-scale. Obviously, it saved me from anxiety, it calmed me down in a certain way. That's why I decided to live, and not to deprive myself of that which brings me strength in the first place, which gives me energy. After all, in order to help others, you need to have your own internal resources.
About February 24
I didn't want to accept it so much that when I heard the first explosions in Kyiv in the morning, I didn't even want to get up - so strong was the internal denial of what was happening. I went into the shower, turned the cold water on - I still could not believe what was happening, because I understood that the war would bring a lot of violence against women, a lot of murders and horrors that I thought people were not capable of. The only desire I had back then was to hug all my loved ones. Ambitions, publishing books – all this immediately fell into the background, and I thought that faced with the worst, I wanted to be with my family. When I started packing the suitcase, I put the documents in it first - and then I looked at the documents and realized that I don't need anything else now, everything else has lost its meaning. Mentally, I was prepared for the worst, in the first days there was a feeling that you could lose everyone you love, your life as well. Even now, I still mentally prepare myself for the fact that at any moment I can lose loved ones. This is the worst feeling.
About the darkest day
It must have been the day when I learned about Bucha and what was happening there. Also when I saw the video of Mariupol’s destruction filmed from a drone. Then I understood that we have only one option to end this war, and that is victory.
About the search for light
I try not to delve into feelings of hatred towards russians and focus on helping Ukraine. When I see how many really good people there are, people who help, don't complain, volunteer, make real miracles happenn, including in the field of art - that's the light. This is why I am very proud of Ukraine.