Miss Ukraine Makes Powerful Fashion Statement Amid Nation's Ongoing Conflict With Russia

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine commenced in early 2022, the Ukrainian people have demonstrated their unending strength and unity. Immediately after the onset of the conflict, social media amplified heartbreaking stories and images of the immediate aftermath, showcasing the violence and destruction experienced by Ukraine. As the Council on Foreign Relations explains, Ukraine and Russia have virtually always been in conflict. This conflict turned a new chapter on February 24, 2022, when Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a "special mission": the invasion of Ukraine. This ongoing conflict has resulted in numerous deaths of civilians and military, as well as hefty sanctions on Russia from powers around the world. As Ukraine continues to defend its sovereignty, more stories and personalities are becoming known globally for their courage and spirit.

Ukraine continues to spread its national spirit by participating in global events like Miss Universe, the World Cup Qualifiers, Eurovision, and more. For the Miss Universe 2022 competition, Ukraine has decided to send its vice Miss Ukraine Universe 2021, Victoria Apanasenko, to showcase the strength that characterizes the Ukrainian people. One of the moments already gaining attention is Apanasenko's choice for the national costume portion of the competition. Without a doubt, Apanasenko's national costume is an ode to the current struggle facing her country today.

Victoria Apanasenko is a warrior of light

For her national costume, Victoria Apanasenko used the opportunity to spread light and courage with a design dubbed the "Warrior of Light." In an Instagram post, Apanasenko talks of the messaging and hope she wishes to portray with her national costume. "The Warrior of Light costume is the personification of the inner strength of Ukrainians, our courage, determination, and love of freedom that flows through our veins," she writes. "In this suit, I wanted to place the idea that war cannot break our strength and discolor our hearts. Even in the heat like a phoenix, Ukraine will blossom and shine bright rays of kindness and faith." Wrapped in armor and airy fabric, Apanasenko's costume is a mix of the hardness of metals and the softness of the white fabric.

In a message to The Odessa Journal, the designer and creator behind the costume, Lesya Patoka, explains, "It was very important for us to create the image of not just a beautiful, but also a strong-willed girl who personifies the whole of Ukraine — unbending, courageous, free. Despite all the difficulties and challenges, we coped with creating the image on time, because each of us is a Warrior in his business." The idea of this costume is to portray Apanesko as a warrior leading her people with bravery and humanity, something we have seen Ukrainian officials reiterate time and time again. No matter where Apanaesko lands in the competition, there's no doubt that her national costume will be remembered for years to come.

What you need to know about Viktoria Apanasenko

With the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, it's no secret that the country's Miss Ukraine organization wasn't able to host its yearly pageant. For that reason, the organization decided to recruit Viktoria Apanasenko, the runner-up in the Miss Ukraine Universe 2021 competition, to fulfill the spot in the Miss Universe 2022 competition. According to The Republic World, Apanasenko is a full-time model and volunteer who has dedicated time to feeding and caring for some of the most vulnerable communities in Ukraine. Having obtained a degree in social work, Apansenko has previously looked to help solve some of the societal problems her country faced before the war.

Since she was appointed Miss Ukraine 2022, Apanasenko has used her platform to spread awareness of the ongoing situation. In an Instagram post detailing her participation, Apanasenko explains her feelings around this momentous occasion. "This was my childhood dream. Probably the first time in this entire time that I cried happy tears. I've always said that beauty pageants aren't about having a good appearance or having a good look," she writes. "This is the mouthpiece in which your voice becomes louder and you can deliver an important message to the whole world." Later in her message, the 27-year-old model reiterates the hardship entailed in representing Ukraine on the world stage during a difficult time. Although Apanasenko did not compete for her title in 2022, the model is among the favorites to win the Miss Universe 2022 competition.