An electrician in Ukraine

Text: Jenni Roth
Photo: Jenni Roth

Raito Yagami

Evgenia Kalugina is 35 years old and an electrician. She lives with her husband, her 16-year-old daughter and a chameleon in Sloviansk, north of Donetsk. The town is near the frontline of the war in eastern Ukraine. The family lives in its own two-room flat on the second floor of an apartment building. As it measures about 40 sq metres, the sofas in the two rooms fold out to serve as beds.

Income, living costs, pension

Kalugina has three jobs: she curates exhibitions at Sloviansk’s local history museum, she coaches Thai boxing and teaches Ukrainian martial arts to children, and she also does voluntary work. She earns about €300 (£274) a month. Ukraine has a flat income tax rate of 18%. There is no state health insurance. Medicine and visits to the doctor are officially free, but in reality many things have to be paid for. “The only thing we have that is insured is the car,” says Kalugina. She has no other fixed costs. Her husband is a businessman, selling transformers. He pays most of the bills, such as food, telephone and car.

What does your work mean to you?

Everything! I want the children to know that the world need not look as ugly as it does at the moment. I want them to understand that the pictures of the war on television are not the only reality. I also want to show them the beautiful things in life. That’s why we are always going on trips away with the sports club, like we did this winter to Odessa.

What is the most important thing in your life?

Taking exercise and training. I go on training courses, eat healthily and play sport. Above all, we must not lose sight of humanity. The war tends to make people numb. That is why I spend a lot of time with the voluntary organisation Black Tulip. It started out looking for the bodies of victims of the second world war. Now it is recovering the dead from the Ukraine conflict so that their families can give them a decent burial. In that way, I can help the soldiers and their families.

What would you like to change about your life?

I would like to outsmart time and be able to do everything all at once.

What are your biggest problems and how do you handle them?

The war is splitting our family. My mother is a radical [Vladimir] Putin supporter and I find that hard to cope with. But I think that all problems can be solved. Except death.

What do you do when you want a treat?

I have my hair and nails done. I don’t need anything else – I wouldn’t have the time anyway.

What would you do if you did not have to earn a living for a year?

I have never been abroad so I would like to travel to other countries, to visit Barcelona, because of [Antoni] Gaudí. And visit Norway, because of the fantastic scenery.



Population: 45 million
Currency: Ukrainian hryvnia (31 UAH = €1 = £0.91)
GDP per capita: €2,400 (2017)
Human Development Index: 84th (UK ranked 16th and Germany ranked fourth out of 188 countries)

Average costs

1 litre petrol: €0.40
1 kilo potatoes: €0.15
10 eggs: €0.50
1 ticket for night train to Kiev: €7
Manicure with nails varnished: €4-€5
Having hair dyed: €12