Oliver Chest (solo): ¡Hola! My name is Olha (although it would be more accurate to pronounce it as Olga) but in the cosplay community I am known as Oliver Chest. I am 24 years old, I am a sculpture student and occasionally a barista. I live in Bucha, Ukraine. It’s my first time as a representative of Ukraine in an international cosplay competition, though I have experience of being a judge at a foreign competition. I am looking forward to this new experience and am very proud to present my country!
Essay Inga (duo): Hi. My name is Inna, but most people know me as Essay Inga. I`m 23 year old data engineer. I have been cosplaying for more than 7 years, and this is the first time I will represent Ukraine at an international competition.
Alise_schtein (duo): Hello. I’m alise_schtein and my real name is Yuliia. In cosplay since 2011. I`m 28 y.o. and working as an aircraft engineer. And this is the first time, when i will represent Ukraine in the cosplay sphere. But in 2019 and in may 2023 I present Ukraine as a part of the Ukrainian team in medieval combat championship.
How did you discover cosplay and what made you start in this hobby? How long ago?
Oliver Chest: I have been a gamer since early childhood, I started playing my first games with my father as early as 4. Fictional worlds always amazed me, they were my source of inspiration as well as a way of escapism. I wanted to bring something from those fantasy realms into reality, that’s when I found out about cosplay. I started creating some accessories. My cosplay debut was in 2016 at Kiev Comic Con and my first costume was Wendy from Gravity Falls. Though it wasn’t too complicated it was a success. I got excited and decided to get into crafting.
Essay Inga: It started in the fall of 2015 when I first visited the Japanese culture festival in Kyiv. A year later, I visited it again but with my first cosplay performance. After that, I didn’t miss a single festival in Ukraine until 2022. Cosplay became for me something that could combine all my hobbies into one, such as music, drawing, handmade and love for the stage and beautiful costumes.
Alise_schtein: I have loved anime from my childhood, but as a young kid I dreamed of seeing fictional characters in real life. In 2010 I saw an article about a cosplay and festival dedicated to it in Ukraine named OTOBE. In September, I visited a festival and saw my dream come true – anime, cartoon, movie and game characters as live persons. Next year (2011) I started my cosplay journey and since then this hobby has become a very important part of my life.
Why did you that project for the ICL national selection? Is this your first time joining an international cosplay competition?
Oliver Chest: I created Garrus costume before the full scale war started. This character was one of my favorite fictional characters of all time because he is determined, loyal, just and brave while also being witty, funny and kind. Then I lived through occupation, injury, fear and loss. And I discovered that I fell in love with this character even more. I want to be more like him, I want to be able to protect my loved ones and stay myself even in the grimmest of times. It only made sense for me to be presenting Ukraine in Garrus costume.
Essay Inga and Alise_schtein:We fell in love with the characters when we first read the original manhwa series in 2020 during the pandemic. This adaptation of the classic novel gave us detailed pictures of costumes and main protagonists. We understood that we had to make these costumes. This is our first time at an international cosplay competition ever and both of us are really impressed and kinda worried about it.
What does cosplay mean for you? And what is your favorite part of the hobby?
Oliver Chest: For me cosplay is a beautiful combination of art and escapism. I love the challenge that different costumes present to me, I love learning new skills and perfecting old ones. As a sculptor I am also a big fan of 3-dimensional art. And for me the biggest achievement in making costumes is when people look at you dressed up as a certain character and they believe that you ARE the character, not just someone posing as one.
Essay Inga: Now Cosplay has become a full-fledged part of my life, it’s hard for me to imagine my everyday life without planning and creating costumes. Most of all I like the process of making craft and learning new techniques for this. Festivals where you can perform on stage are important, as well as cosplay is a hobby that can unite many different people. Otherwise, how would a programmer, an aircraft designer, a teacher, a doctor, and a tattoo artist become close friends
Alise_schtein: Cosplay is a big part of my life and it gives me the opportunity to be whoever I want to be, whether it’s a warrior, a cute girl, or even a queen. This hobby is about having fun with your friends, but my favorite part is performing on stage, which i try to join at every festival, party or convention since 2012.
How did the pandemic affect your motivation and project for the selections?
Oliver Chest: Pandemic didn’t really affect me, but the war definitely did. I am a survivor of Buchan occupation, I got shot to the knee, we had to live in freezing conditions with no water, electricity and heating under constant threat, my horse was burned alive along with others at Hostomel stables. When we were able to evacuate to Kyiv almost a month later I soon became a refugee in Ireland. It was hard. I became friends with a lot of people from the Irish cosplay community but up until now I find it hard to create new costumes. Partially because I developed depression but also because it really feels out of place. As I’ve said, I consider cosplay as a form of escapism. And it’s really not the time for Ukrainians to try to run from reality. I am glad that my costume is of an alien soldier, this gives me much more confidence in doing this.
Essay Inga Alise_schtein: Pandemic do not have effect on our motivation and project for the selections. when we have an idea nothing can stop us. The cancellation of festivals greatly affected our ability to show more people the result of our hard work, and unfortunately, in Ukraine, we still do not have the opportunity to fully return to the big cosplay scene.
Do you think cosplay is changing since the pandemic? Why and how?
Oliver Chest: Again, pandemic didn’t really change Ukrainian cosplay community, it just stalled it for a couple of years. Now the war is a whole other thing. And no, I can’t avoid this topic, it is too important and influential to ignore. A lot of cosplayers in Ukraine had to be evacuated from their homes, some of their homes were destroyed along with all their costumes and tools. Some have joined the army. Our community was shaken to its core. Some people will later return to their hobby, either because it doesn’t feel like it used to or because they are no longer with us. But on a brighter note I see cosplayers who take inspiration in traditional Ukrainian clothes, in our flag etc. So this is a complicated process and nobody can predict what the Ukrainian cosplay community will look like in the coming years.
Essay Inga: I don’t think the pandemic as such has had much of an impact on my creative process of making costumes. Although the festivals and activities have become much less. It was much more affected by the war, which forced me to give up my home and hobbies for a year.
Alise_schtein: For me nothing changes. In pandemic times we needed to use masks and have vaccination certificates (or negative covid tests) at cons. But this all ended by war. And this changed cosplay in Ukraine. Blackouts, air alarms, rockets are the troubles which every Ukrainian has to deal with no matter what he is doing.
What do you expect from your visit to Spain? Is this your first time visiting the country?
Oliver Chest: I’ve been to Spain a couple of times before and I loved it! I’ve never been to Madrid though, so I am excited to discover this city for myself. I hope I’ll have a chance to see the architecture and culture of Madrid as well as have a taste of the local cuisine. I also started learning Spanish in Duolingo because I think the best and most respectable way to approach people in other countries is to do it in their own language. Other than that I am excited to see what Japan Weekend and ICL has to offer!
Essay Inga: I have never been to Spain before, so it is very interesting for me to visit the country and get to know its culture and cosplay community.
Alise_schtein: It will be my second visit to Spain. This year in May I arrived in the beautiful city of Belmonte. Since then i really wanted to visit Madrid, to try spain cuisine and discover culture.
How was the experience of joining the online selections? Did you have the costume ready or did you make a new one?
Oliver Chest: To be honest, I wasn’t too thrilled when I heard about ICL selection. Last 1,5 years were very hard for me, especially mentally. My friends in the cosplay community persuaded me to join online selections. When I was selected as a solo representative, I thought to myself: “Hey, it’s actually a great chance to remind everyone about Ukraine and our cosplay community! And If I happen to win something I would be able to donate it towards de-mining effort or humanitarian aid for refugees or the prosthetics for those who lost their limbs!” These thoughts made me much more enthusiastic and eager to go to Madrid!
Essay Inga and Alise_schtein: It was a pleasant surprise for the two of us to find out that despite the war in our country, a national online selection for the ICL will be held. Without thinking twice, we chose Shi Qingxuan and He Xuan as their costumes were almost ready. We started sewing them about 2.5 years ago, but the war ruined our plans. This cosplay project started as a joke, but we couldn’t think that in the future we would represent Ukraine in Spain
Describe the cosplay community in your country using five words.
Oliver Chest: Supportive. United. Passionate. Brave. Unbroken.
Essay Inga and Alise_schtein: strong, creative, big, massive, multiform
Link to your Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter (add other social media if relevant):
Essay Inga: https://www.instagram.com/essayinga/
Team Ukraine was selected during the internal online selections.