Alona Kibets was born in Ukraine 26 years ago. She is a tour guide and has a degree in History. She studied Spanish at university and since 2018 she has been conducting tours in Spanish of kyiv and Chernobyl. Everything was going well… until last February 24, the day Russia began the invasion of Ukraine.
What was a normal day like for you before the war broke out? I worked almost every day because in Ukraine there are not many Spanish-speaking guides. He helped organize their trips to Spanish, Chilean, Argentinean, Colombian, and also American tourists… it was quite an experience. He really enjoyed himself and I made friends all over the world. In addition, she had a blog on Instagram, @alona_kibets, where she posted travel information, showed photos, and gave tips to make the most of time during a trip to Ukraine.
What was life like in kyiv then? It was a vibrant and modern city; a developed capital where multiple events were organized, there was a lot of traffic, it was a magnet that attracted thousands of people from small cities who came in search of work…
On several occasions, tourists told me that they had been very surprised. They expected to find a city that was poor and gray from its past as the capital of a Soviet republic. However, kyiv was not like that, far from it.
What did you think when you heard about the invasion? I went into shock. I couldn’t believe it. Until the last moment I thought that it was impossible that in the year 2022 a war would start. And I still can’t believe that there are politicians who give more importance to money than to human lives.
I still can’t believe that there are politicians who give more importance to money than to human lives.
Could you briefly narrate how you have lived these last few months? When the shelling started next to my house, I left kyiv. My apartment is located in the center, near the television tower, the building targeted by the bombs… In April, after the departure of the Russian troops from the north, I decided to return.
What did you find on your return? A wounded city and a lot of uncertainty. an exodus Thousands of people have left the country because it is now very difficult to find work. Those of us who have stayed, try to live: the shops, the supermarkets, the schools all work.
What is a normal day like for you now? There are sirens in the background. First they were heard at night, then they began to be heard during the day as well… I have practically no work, so I have dedicated the summer to studying. I’m getting ready to take my driver’s license test. For that reason I returned to kyiv. Before the war I was never interested in having it, but when it exploded, I saw how women at the wheel escaped with their children from the areas that were being bombed and I realized that it is essential to know how to drive.
During the bombing of Mariupol I dreamed that I was helping to evacuate the population by car.
Where does that little work that comes to you come from? I have reinvented myself. I do virtual tours of Ukraine: in kyiv, Chernobyl, Mariupol, Crimea, Lviv…. They are private tours and my tourists can choose the day, the time, so it is more comfortable for both them and me. During the tour, which lasts about an hour, we talk about the history of the city, the culture, I show the photos and videos from my archive… I think it’s an unforgettable experience. With them I earn some money that allows me to get by and help my relatives and a friend who has a baby.
How can a person or a group hire one of these visits? You can write me on Instagram @alona_kibets, on Facebook Hello Kyiv Tour or by email [email protected]
What happened to your blog? When the war started, I turned it into a news platform where I posted my experience. I did it for the first few months with the intention of showing what was really happening in Ukraine, around me.
Somehow, after so many months, in other areas where the conflict is not active at the moment, have they also returned to activity and to a relatively normal life? Activity has returned, but life is not normal, it cannot be when you see that 200 or 300 kilometers from your city there is a war and people are dying… Nothing is as it was before, and we are not as before.
Nothing is as it was before, and we are not as before
What are your expectations for the near future?
Ugh… what a difficult question. We have assumed that the war will last a few more months and it is terrible. This war is a business that some powerful people are profiting from and there is nothing we can do to prevent it from continuing. It is very sad to see how civilians suffer and feel powerless.
Whether or not the war ends does not depend on us. The only thing I can do is work, do the tours and show how beautiful my country is to people from all over the world. Ukraine deserves the best, because very brave people live here.
Alona has asked us to dedicate this interview to three people very close to her who have died in this war: “To my uncle oleander, who was a soldier and died in February; to my english teacher Jimmy, American, who did not want to leave Ukraine and was killed by a sniper in March while queuing to buy bread; and my college buddy, vasulwho was a soldier and died near Jersos.