Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine on February 24, the world has seen many images of women fiercely defending their homes, working as volunteers, joining civilian militias, or relocating their families across the border. Tanya Ruban, a model and actor, comes from a long line of such resilience women. Ruban, who was born and raised in Chernihiv, Ukraine, now lives in Barcelona, Spain, and was in Ibiza for work when the conflict broke out. This Mother’s Day, she feels particularly close to her ancestors, and to celebrate the holiday, we met with the model and actor to talk about her foremothers. Their narratives are taking a new meaning in her own life and in the life of a country now being ravaged by the war. “My duty now is to pass on our traditions and let my children know the great history of our family, our people, and our country,” she says.
Tell us a bit about your origins and background. What was your upbringing like?
When the war started I was in Ibiza, for work. I woke up at 5 am, but I didn’t know why. I had this strange feeling of danger and then, when I looked at my phone, I saw the messages. “It started,” from my sister, and “daughter, the war has started,” from my mother. I felt shock, devastation, anger, pain, and fear. I can’t describe the whole range of feelings I had the first couple of days. Nobody expected that this would happen. Nobody expects their homes to be bombed and destroyed. You can’t be ready for this. My apartment building in Chernihiv was bombed too, and all I could think of was that nobody was hurt or dead. I didn’t care about my apartment at all. I knew that we would rebuild it.
I was battling mixed feelings: guilt that I was not there, and some relief that my children were not seeing this hell on earth. Only they stopped me from the urge to go back home. The responsibility to provide for them prevented me from going to Ukraine and finding a way to help from here.
With my mom’s help (who sent a supply list) and the Ukrainian community in Sant Cugat and Castelldefels in Barcelona, we urgently organized a donation center where we were able to collect a 20 ton truck and send it to Ukraine in 5 days.
During those days, I truly understood the legacy of our ancestors and the women in my family. I understood that it is my turn now to provide for my children and my family, and my country. It’s my turn now to be a woman in charge.
What are the values that you want to imprint on your kids, Martin (12) and Maya (6)? How is it like being a mother in these convulsed times?
It’s very important that my kids, so young as they are, but who obviously know what is going on in our homeland, can keep humanity and compassion in their little hearts. They must cherish and embrace freedom and have the courage to not lose it under the world’s pressure. My duty is to empower that sense of freedom in them!