Oksana Kononets was left paralyzed after falling from the fifth floor, which caused an injury to her spine.
Ukrainians are being displaced by the millions from their homes in the wake of the attack by Russia. The stories of Ukrainians escaping the country and being forced to find refuge in other countries are heartbreaking. The bravery of the Ukrainian people is striking a chord all around the world. One such story is that of model Oksana Kononets, who escaped from Ukraine to America at the start of the war and recently took part in a fashion show event in Los Angeles. Kononets, who's disabled, featured in the annual fashion show hosted by Runway of Dreams, a nonprofit that supports adaptive clothing for persons with disabilities, reported PEOPLE.
Kononets was left paralyzed following a fall from the 5th floor which caused an injury to her spine. Kononets refused to let her disability hold her back on her dreams and went on to become a model. She worked with projects that raised awareness about people with disabilities. "I refused to let my disability stop me and stubbornly pushed on. Through months of rehabilitation, I learned to adapt myself in many ways. It was then, that I realized that I am a complete and self-sufficient person; which gave me the strength to move on. My disability is not an obstacle to fulfilling my dreams," she wrote on her website.
The Los Angeles show in the wake of the attack by Russia was an important event to her as it helped raise awareness of people with disabilities and the war itself. She donned a yellow and blue dress reflecting the flag of Ukraine. "I was very proud," she told PEOPLE. "I came here, it was a very great moment for me." Kononets said she wanted to convey there was a space for disabled people in fashion. "The main message... is power, is beauty, and [equality]," she said. "For me, it's the main message because already people with disabilities want to be [beautiful], want to be in fashion, to wear beautiful clothes. This runaway show shows this."
As Russia prepared to attack, she left the country on a crowded train in an 11-hour journey to Poland. "[My mother] packed our luggage, only one luggage, for two [people]," she recalled. She then traveled to the Netherlands before flying to the US with the help of a friend. She reached on March 5. "I'm in safety, me and my mom is good. I understood that I have a [chance] to participate in Runway Of Dreams and I was happier about this." When asked about the war back home, she believes the resilience and strength of the Ukrainian people will persevere. "War... is a terrible word. I call for help to close the skies over Ukraine, to help protect the lives of peaceful Ukrainian people," she wrote on Instagram, as per the translation.
Kononets journey since her accident has been an inspiring one. "Four years after my injury, in 2016, I won the title of "Miss Elegance" of the Ukrainian beauty contest, Beauty No Limits 2016, and then in 2017, continued to win the title of "Miss Individuality" of the first Miss Wheelchair World contest held in Warsaw, Poland," she said. Kononets also founded a photo project titled "Unbroken Beauty" that focused on portraying women with disabilities. In 2018, she became the first model in a wheelchair to feature on the runway of Ukraine Fashion Week.
European leaders confirmed their support for Ukraine in talks earlier this week and the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called for the European Union to grant Ukraine candidate status, reported CNN. "We are here to admire your fight against such a cruel aggressor. This invasion has to stop," said Morawiecki. "Those who are killed by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, they can never be forgotten. They are not forgotten." Morawiecki noted that Poland shared a 310-mile border with Ukraine. "We will never leave you alone. We will be with you. Because we know you are fighting not only for your homes, for your freedom, for your security, but also for ours," he said.
Russia's attack on Ukraine is a developing story, and we’ll update as we learn more. Information is swiftly changing and Upworthy is committed to providing the most recent and verified updates in our articles and reportage. However, considering the frequency in developments, some of the information/data in this article may have changed since the time of publication.