Real Estate

After Fleeing Ukraine, a Tattoo Artist Settles Into Life in Brooklyn

It was war that drove Alona Hamova from her home, but, in a way, she always knew she was destined to leave. “I felt like I didn’t fit there,” she said.

She grew up in Novovasylivka, a small Ukrainian village just a few miles from the port city of Berdyansk, in the east of the country. For Ms. Hamova, it was a place of limited opportunity and imagination, a place that thwarted her ambition. “I lived in this village where everyone told me, ‘Oh you have to be this way only,’” she said. “I would see people on TV, living their best lives, and I would think, I want that too. I am motivated by my own desires. Not having something I want hurts.”

She attended Kyiv National Linguistic University and graduated with a degree in translation studies and competency in four languages, but she lacked certainty about the work she wanted to do, and where, exactly, she wanted to live.

When she was 22, she got a tattoo of a whale on her stomach and struck up a conversation with the artist. The artist became her mentor, and Ms. Hamova was learning the fundamentals of tattooing. “I liked drawing, since childhood,” she said. “But I always thought I was not creative enough. It was a lack of confidence.”

She tinkered with it for a few years, looking for her own style. She acquired six more tattoos: a lotus on her back, a mandala on her thigh, a small branch near her collarbone, a beetle and flowers on her legs, and daffodils near her kneecap, which is her favorite as it has, over time, become a personal symbol of self-acceptance.

It was a difficult breakup at age 25 that helped her gain clarity. “This is when I discovered my style,” she said, “because I was able to accept myself and love myself and embrace who I am.”

Related Articles

Back to top button