“The World Needs to Accept the Wounded as They Are”: A Ukrainian Woman Who After Losing an Eye Starred for Playboy Shared Her Story With the Museum of Civilian Voices of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation
In the first days of the full-scale war, Iryna Bilotserkovets, a doctor, model, and mother of many children, came under enemy fire. As a result, she lost an eye and half of her face was mutilated. Now, step by step, Iryna is restoring her health and helping the military. She has starred in a photo shoot for Playboy in order to draw attention to the problems of inclusion.
Iryna told her story to Oleksiy Sukhanov, an actor, TV presenter, and the ambassador of the Museum of Civilian Voices of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation. On 26 February 2022, she decided to evacuate her three sons to a safe place. The car Iryna was driving came under fire. One of the bullets hit her directly in the face.
“I saw my sons with my one eye left intact. And I told them to bend down. I told them that I love them and that I was dying. I managed to slam on the brakes...”, Iryna recalls.
A paramedic happened to pass by the scene. He gave her first aid. A year and a half later, Iryna found the man to thank him, and he said that she was his first woman “wounded in action” or casualty in his life. All this time, Iryna has been fighting for her health and taking care of her children. Her eldest son is 11 years old.
“At first, my eldest son was worried about whether I was alive or not. Then, whether I would always look like this... My middle son did not go outside at all for a month and had panic attacks every time air alert sirens wailed. Due to stress, my youngest son called his grandmother, that is my mother, as “mummy” for half a year,” says Iryna.
She has undergone several surgery operations and there are a few more to come. Ukrainian doctors take her diagnosis as a challenge. The woman learns to accept herself as a new person, a new self. She admits that the offer to star for Playboy did not surprise her.
“I was ready to show through photographs that I do not need to be pitied. We are wounded, but we are living on. We also want to look nice. And we really need the world to accept us as we are,” emphasizes Iryna.
Find out more about the photo shoot, Iryna’s help to the military and the “angels” whom she met on her way here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryDOjtLoAXU
The story of Iryna Bilotserkovets became part of the collection of the Museum of Civilian Voices of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation. You can find it here: https://bit.ly/49110eW.
The Museum collects first-person stories about the war from Ukrainian civilians. Its archive now contains more than 85,000 such stories. Tell your story on the Museum’s portal https://civilvoicesmuseum.org/ or via the toll-free hot line 0 (800) 509 001.