Evghenia Kushnir's journey: art, resilience, and new beginnings


Meet Evghenia, a Ukrainian refugee living in Moldova who participated in the SheLeads Programme - Increased opportunities for business skills development and support for business for women, both local and Ukrainian refugees, offered by UN Women Moldova.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Association for Business Formation and Development (AFAD)

Prior to the outbreak of the war, Evghenia enjoyed a comfortable and secure life in Mykolaiv, Ukraine. She shared her days with friends, her mother, and found fulfillment in her role as an art teacher. After her city faced relentless bombings, it became too dangerous for her to stay in her home. Together with her mother, their two cats and a parrot, Evghenia fled, joining the 113,000 other Ukrainian refugees in Moldova, with the majority being women and girls.1

Upon arriving in Moldova, Evghenia felt immobilized, unsure of how to navigate the next steps in her life. Amidst uncertainty, one thing remained a steadfast anchor for her: the desire to engage in an activity and find a sense of purpose within her newfound community. While volunteering at the Temporary Placement Center “Dumbrava Albă”, she taught both refugees and local children how to draw and make crafts. This helped Evghenia to obtain a paid position as an art teacher.

At the same time, Evghenia came across informational leaflets distributed at the Temporary Placement Center – Hotel Bălți advertising UN Women's training programs. She enrolled in the business and entrepreneurial courses, a joint initiative developed in partnership with Association for Business Formation and Development (AFAD), Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), Public Association CASMED and Public Association Everyone Contributes to Change. Through these trainings, she gained valuable skills such as setting both short- and long-term goals, conducting a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis, devising a business plan and formulating marketing and promotion strategies.

Motivated by her newly acquired business skills, Evghenia is poised to launch her own business. Art Time Studio, her upcoming children's center, will be a space where children can harness the power of the arts to foster creative thinking and imagination. Evghenia has secured equipment such as a multifunctional color printer, a tablet and a painting easel from a small grant provided by AFAD under the project She Leads, funded by the Government of Japan through UN Women. She is currently in the process of searching for a suitable rental space. She eventually aims to expand her offerings to include adults and masterclass workshops.

Evghenia feels that her business is something she has always aspired to create, but never had the opportunity to do so. She expresses herself as being “grateful for UN Women and the support they offered. I gained courage only because you believed in me.” Evghenia stands as one of the 121 women who actively engaged in a comprehensive 10-day training program facilitated under the SheLeads Project. This initiative, aimed at bolstering business skill development and providing support for women entrepreneurs, catered to participants from six different regions of the country, fostering opportunities for both local residents and Ukrainian refugees.

Beyond the training sessions, Evghenia availed herself of additional valuable resources offered through the program. She benefited from psychological and mental health counseling, a very important support taking into consideration her recent experience. Furthermore, she accessed mentorship programs that provided invaluable guidance, wisdom, and insights from experienced individuals in the field. Additionally, Evghenia received financial support, enabling her to venture into the realm of business with enhanced confidence and resources.