Pin It
Mishka Bochkaryov 2
Photography Mishka Bochkaryov

A portrait of Ukraine’s ageing population


TextEkaterina Sergatskova

Photographer Mishka Bochkaryov takes beauty portraits of old people on the streets of Ukraine

There’s a big problem facing older people living in Ukraine today. Most people over 60 receive a pension of a little less than £90 a month. Lunch at a Kyiv cafe costs £9 per person. It is one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the quality of life for pensioners, on a par with Algeria and Angola.

The elderly in Ukrainian love to remember how good they lived during the “sovok” (an informal word for the Soviet Union) when there was cheap food and you didn’t have to care about your outfit – under communism “everyone was equal”. After Ukraine gained independence, they were faced with new rules that came in from the West: cheap, multi-coloured second-hand cosmetics began to spread, nightclubs opened, TV-channels started to show programs that raised the topic of sexuality for the first time.

However, the quality of life among old people fell.

Over the years, entire networks of services for old people have been formed here: for example, in Kyiv, you can see hairdresser kiosks with haircuts for 40 UAH (£1) and a manicure for 100 UAH (£3) near each metro station, and dozens of pensioners inside any one of them.

Older women here have a tradition – no one can tell you where it came from – to turn their hair into a fluffy bouffant and dye their greys to the colour of fuchsia. Women with such an appearance can be seen in countless Kyiv rynki (markets), where pensioners earn extra money to add to their pensions and get the chance to gossip with one another.

But as with most countries, being old in Ukraine means being invisible. All public life is sharpened for the younger generation: the majority of attractive clubs, shops, entertainment. And all advertising visually focuses on young healthy people. Businesses exclude pensioners from their marketing because they believe this age bracket do not have the money. Success stories, such as Maye Mask, the Canadian model who is modelling in her 70s, bewilders the old people I talk to in Ukraine: they don’t believe that after 60 you can be a person who's passionate about life and expose your body.

There are exceptions to this rule, however. 70-year-old pensioner Elena Volk lives in Kyiv. She attends youth parties, openings of contemporary art exhibitions and events in nightclubs, participates in nude photoshoots and considers herself an outcast in a get-together of old people. “Now I feel at the peak of sexuality,” she says, but people like her and her peers are considered freaks.

A few years ago, the Zhiznelyub club (Swinger club) appeared in Kiev. It developed a community of old people who want to remain fashionable and socially active. They are often filmed for music videos, movies, and social photo projects; they fascinate the creative young. The club distributes hot food, medicine, and other necessities to pensioners for free. But it is the only such initiative in the country so far. With so little to occupy them beyond hair and nail salons, and so little money anyway, you have to wonder: what are old people to do? 

Read Next
Chloe Sheppard
Dealing (and not dealing) with finding a breast lump in your early 20s Beauty Feature
mowalola fashion east ss20 lfwm
Hairstylist Virginie Moreira is the next big thing Spotlight
Vintage-fingers-in-ears-not-listening-damselsinsuc
Don't light candles in your ears: the life of an ear wax extraction doctor The Professionals
Gigi Hari
Trans model Gigi Hari is disrupting binary notions of beauty Model
rina sawayama sweetmutuals lyle reimer evanie frausto mexico
Rina Sawayama on Drag Race UK, Pat McGrath, and rejecting Kawaii Beauty Feature
Bella Hadid
Bella Hadid is more beautiful than Beyoncé, according to science Beauty news
5. MICA
The new faces of IMG get wiggy with it Beauty Feature
Novembre 15
The new issue of Novembre delights in the beautiful and the grotesque Beauty Feature
brandon allen homecoming royalty teen prom instagram
How queer teens are reclaiming the glitz and glamour of Homecoming titles Beauty Feature
Screen Shot 2019-10-15 at 16.01.59
How accessible is the beauty world to those with disabilities? Beauty Feature
instagram plastic surgery dolls cosmetic procedures
Inside the secret world of Instagram’s ‘dolls’ Beauty Feature
A Cold Wall
Everything you need to know about Bakuchiol, a smart alternative to Retinol products
troy fearn casting directors
The next gen of casting directors on what they look for in potential models Beauty Feature
image
Is the vicious cycle of burnout causing women to lose their hair? Beauty Feature
IMG-6883
I got drunk in a red wine bath in the name of wellness Tried and Tested
ramla ali boxer instagram hair
Champion boxer Ramla Ali opens up about her hair, fitness, and social media Beauty Feature