Makeup Artist Who Fled Ukraine Lands Cannes Dream

Ukrainian makeup artist Aliona Antonova (R) applies make-up on a model at a salon in Cannes, southern France, on the sidelines of the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, on May 22, 2022. (Photo by Deborah COLE / AFP)




Ukrainian makeup artist Aliona Antonova had little idea when she fled her hometown the morning of the Russian invasion that she would soon find herself among the stars at the world’s top film festival.

Antonova’s made-for-Hollywood odyssey to Cannes began at dawn on February 24, with the first bombs going off in Odessa not far from her beauty salon and makeup school.

Now the 31-year-old single mum finds herself doing cosmetics for guests bound for the festival’s vaunted red carpet.

“I believe in my destiny,” she told AFP.

“When I decided to come here I didn’t know: would I have clients here or students? But I just knew that I should come here.”

– ‘In shock’ –
Antonova’s story began that frightening morning three months ago.

“One day before the war started I was arguing with my uncle because he told me soon the war would start. I didn’t believe him but I went to sleep and I felt something unusual — it was fear,” she said.

The next morning at 6:00 am her brother woke her with the news, telling her to prepare to flee the country.

“I called a taxi to check on my salon and heard a bomb and was in shock,” she said.

Although she hated to leave her home, employees and beloved city, her quick escape to Moldova proved a wise decision given the massive queues that soon appeared at the border.

By chance, her four-year-old son Micha was already with her parents in the Moldovan capital Chisinau for a family celebration.

Harnessing the power of her 72,000 Instagram followers, she quickly landed work in western European countries which had opened their borders to Ukrainians, doing makeovers and tutorials in cities like Brussels and Berlin.

Even back in Odessa she had set her sights on Cannes one day because “all stars are usually in America but it’s very far away — this is the closest place with so many stars” in one place at one time.

She contacted local beauty salons and the first one she wrote to offered her a spot as a freelancer during the festival.

“I was in shock because it was very easy,” she said. “So easy that until the date to come here, I didn’t believe that it will be true.”

Since she set up shop she’s been doing a brisk business, with the protagonists of the Netflix documentary “The Tinder Swindler” among her favourite Cannes clients. “They were so fun!”


Ukrainian makeup artist Aliona Antonova had little idea when she fled her hometown the morning of the Russian invasion that she would soon find herself among the stars at the world’s top film festival. (Photo by Deborah COLE / AFP)


– ‘How brave’ –
Stargazing on Cannes’s famed Croisette seaside promenade, she’s already spotted Julia Roberts and Anne Hathaway, as well as Brazilian model and actress Adriana Lima.

Antonova doesn’t tell people she’s Ukrainian because she doesn’t want people to feel sorry for her, unless they ask.

“All people who know that I am from Ukraine give support. They always ask, ‘How are you? How is your family?’ That’s very kind,” she said.

By charging up to 300 euros ($320) per person for evening makeup and seeking investors for her own line of cosmetic products, she’s hopeful of soon flying Micha and her mother to Cannes to join her.

As far as what the future will bring, Antonova fights back tears, admitting the anxiety sometimes gets the better of her.

“I think all the world is surprised how brave our people are,” she said.

“I hope it will finish very soon. But anyway when the war will be finished, it will be very hard for our people to (rebuild) everything.

“No one knows what will happen tomorrow. Now I’m on my way but I want to feel light. I’m trying to be optimistic.”

Israel Welcomes Fleeing Ukrainian Jews

Volunteers in the Israeli northern town of Nof Hagalil gather objects donated to welcome refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, on March 6, 2022. – “Nof Hagalil is built on immigration,” said mayor Ronen Plot, who arrived in Israel nearly 50 years ago from Moldova. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP)


In a parking lot under his municipality office in northern Israel, Nof Hagalil mayor Ronen Plot juggled phone calls as volunteers unloaded blankets and clothes donated for refugees fleeing war in Ukraine.

“Nof Hagalil is built on immigration,” said Plot, 67, who arrived in Israel nearly 50 years ago from Moldova. “We will absorb as many people as we can.”

After the Russian invasion began, Plot posted on Facebook, inviting Ukrainian “olim”, or Jewish immigrants, to his town and urging residents to pitch in.

“If a big immigration wave arrives, we’d be happy to take part in the Israeli effort,” he wrote.

Under Israel’s “law of return”, anyone with at least one Jewish parent or grandparent is entitled to citizenship.

Among those responding to Plot’s invitation was Chaim Gershman, who reached Nof Hagalil on Thursday with his wife Ora and their four children. His mother Nelja, 60, arrived a day later.

Gershman said he had just one hour to pack, as Russian bombs fell on his community near Kyiv. He left wearing work clothes from fixing a faucet.

“At first, we didn’t believe a thing like this will happen and we thought it was fake,” said Gershman.

He said when he arrived in Israel, he chose Nof Hagalil because of the mayor’s posts.

“I saw a man inviting, saying come to our city, we’ll welcome you,” he said.

Plot said his community offers a familiar environment because more than half its 50,000 residents speak Russian.

Shops sell Belarusian herring and Georgian sparkling water, and street signs are translated into Russian.

The mayor said he located 600 empty hotel rooms and 300 vacant apartments to house the Ukrainians who are “exhausted”.

“They endured a lot of misery, they are hungry and tired and it’s awful.”

– ‘We left everything’ –

The Gershmans fled the Kyiv-area town of Anatevka, built in the image of the fictional Jewish village made famous in the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Escorted by police, the family drove 17 hours to reach the Moldovan border, only stopping once for 10 minutes amid explosions.

“We left everything we had, our whole lives,” Ora Gershman, 35, said.

Now, the seven family members sleep in two adjoining rooms in Nof Hagalil’s Plaza Hotel. The children have enrolled in school, while the parents organise paperwork and search for permanent accommodation.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has avoided forceful condemnation of Russia’s invasion, stressing Israel’s strong ties with Moscow and Kyiv.

Chaim Gershman said he did not “understand how one can stay neutral when it is clear who the aggressor is”.

“Putin has said they will only attack military targets but at the moment they are bombing without distinction,” he said.

– ‘Impossible’ rate –

Authorities say as many as 100,000 “olim” and their families could arrive from both Ukraine and Russia, evoking an earlier wave of about a million people who immigrated from the collapsing former Soviet Union.

Interior minister Ayelet Shaked estimated Sunday that about 15,000 Ukrainians could reach Israel by the end of March, with 90 percent unqualified for “return” rights. She said that was an “impossible” rate for the country of 9.4 million people.

“We are the insurance policy for the Jewish people,” Shaked, of Bennett’s religious nationalist Yamina party, told Israeli public radio.

Israeli citizens who host non-Jewish Ukrainians who are not their immediate relatives must post a 10,000 shekel ($3,046) deposit per traveller, returnable when they depart.

Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai wrote on Twitter: “Such a demand at this time is inhuman and immoral and prevents refugees fleeing the war and without family in Israel from seeking refuge here.”

Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, told reporters on Monday that an agreement had been reached on deposits for non-Jewish refugees and thanked Shaked, without providing specifics.

– Arab neighbours –

The arrival of Jews to Nof Hagalil touches a historical nerve.

It was built as a Jewish town in the 1950s on land appropriated from the neighbouring Arab city of Nazareth. Israel’s founding prime minister David Ben Gurion aimed to “Judaize” the Galilee, which was inhabited mostly by Israel’s 20 percent Arab minority.

Arab citizens of Israel are the descendants of Palestinians who remained during Israel’s 1948 war of independence, while more than 700,000 others fled or were forced from their homes. Israel has not allowed most Palestinian refugees to return.

With time, Arab citizens have moved into Nof Hagalil, and today they comprise about a quarter of its population.

One of them is Saed Diab, 39, the banquet manager of the Plaza Hotel that is hosting refugees. He said he donated hand-me-down clothing for the new arrivals.

“I was in Kyiv on holiday just before the coronavirus. Nice city, good people,” he said.

“I’m sorry for what’s happening to them.”


Joshua Admits He Has ‘Learnt His Lesson’ After Usyk Defeat

British heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua leaves the arena after losing to Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk during their heavyweight boxing match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London on September 25, 2021. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)


Anthony Joshua says he has learnt his lesson after losing his world heavyweight titles to Oleksandr Usyk in London at the weekend.

Usyk outpointed Joshua on all three judges’ scorecards as he wrested the WBA, IBF and WBO titles away from the British boxer in front of a crowd of more than 66,000 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Joshua cut a surprisingly relaxed figure in the early hours of Sunday as he gave his initial thoughts on just the second defeat of his 26-fight professional career despite having greater height, reach and weight than his Ukrainian opponent.

In a social media post on Thursday, the 31-year-old said: “I’ve watched the fight, analysed my preparations and identified my mistakes. I’ve learnt my lesson.

“Thanks for sending love & checking in. Don’t worry about me. My spirit is strong!”

Both camps are keen to activate a rematch clause, with Usyk hoping to take on Joshua in front of his home crowd in Kiev, although Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, suggested a second fight would likely take place in Britain again on economic grounds.

Joshua’s defeat has scuppered hopes of a “Battle of Britain” unification heavyweight title clash with Tyson Fury.

Fellow British heavyweight Fury defends his WBC title when he meets Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas on October 9 — the third meeting between the boxers following a split-decision draw and a victory for Fury.

“My advice to Joshua in the rematch is, get stuck in the best way he knows how, put his best foot forward and swing away, Jack, swing away,” Fury said on Wednesday.

“Was I absolutely wounded that (Usyk) won? Yes, I was. I was hoping Joshua could win the fight, but he couldn’t — and that’s none of my business.

“The only thing I’m bothered about is beating Deontay Wilder, and that’s the most dangerous heavyweight out there. In my opinion, Wilder beats Joshua, Usyk, all the rest of the division, comfortably — but he cannot beat me.”


World Leaders Demand Full Account After Iran Admits Downing Ukrainian Plane

Rescue teams work amidst debris after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran early in the morning on January 8, 2020, killing everyone on board. 


Iran said Saturday it had unintentionally shot down the Ukrainian airliner that crashed this week outside Tehran killing 176 people, calling it an “unforgivable mistake”.

The statement sparked some relief that at least the immediate cause of the disaster would not be concealed amid international calls for a full accounting and compensation for the victims.

Iran has invited the United States, Ukraine, Canada and others to join the crash investigation.

READ ALSO: Iran Guards Commander Accepts Responsibility For Shooting Down Ukrainian Plane

Herewith are some of the remarks made by top leaders in response to the Iranian statement on its responsibility for the crash.

Ukraine: ‘Bring The Guilty To Court’

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded that Iran punish those responsible, pay compensation and apologise.

“We expect Iran… to bring the guilty to the courts,” the Ukrainian leader wrote on Facebook, calling for the “payment of compensation” and the return of remains.

“We hope the inquiry will be pursued without deliberate delay and without obstruction,” Zelensky added

He also urged “total access” to the full inquiry for 45 Ukrainian experts and in a tweet also sought an “official apology”.

Canada: ‘Transparency, Justice’

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, with the country mourning the loss of many of its nationals, said closure and accountability were needed after Iran’s announcement.

He demanded “transparency, and justice for the families and loved ones of the victims.

“This is a national tragedy, and all Canadians are mourning together,” Trudeau’s office said in a statement.

Russia: ‘Must Learn Lessons’

Iran must “learn lessons” from the disaster, the chairman of the Russian parliament’s foreign affairs committee said.

“If decryption of the black boxes and the work of the investigation do not prove that the Iranian army did this intentionally, and there are no logical reasons for this, the incident must be closed.

“Hoping that lessons will be learned and action taken by all parties,” Konstantin Kosachev was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

France: ‘End Escalation’

French Defence Minister Florence Parly said it was “important to seize this moment to give space to discussions and negotiations” on the Iran nuclear deal.

“The lessons that we should learn from the dramatic sequence of events that we have experienced… is that we must put an end to this escalation,” Parly told France Inter radio.

She reiterated the French position that everything must be done to salvage the landmark 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, which US President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018.

Germany: ‘Draw The Right Consequences’

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said “it was important that Iran brought clarity to this issue.

“Now Tehran needs to draw the right consequences in the continued appraisal of this dreadful catastrophe, and take measures to ensure that something like this cannot happen again,” Mass told Funke media.


Tyson Emerges Heavyweight Champion, Klitschko Demands Rematch

Klitshchko--FuryTyson Fury is the new Heavyweight Champion of the world after he stunned Wladimir Klitschko by unanimous decision in Germany.

Undefeated Fury, who improved his record to 25-0 and now has the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO belts, was never troubled by the 39-year-old Ukrainian who suffered his first loss in 11 years.

Fury, changing between southpaw and orthodox stance, kept chipping away at Klitschko’s defences with his combinations, and by the eighth round the Champion was bleeding from a cheek wound.

He then landed a bruising left uppercut in the ninth that wounded Klitschko’s right eye.

Sensing the title slipping away, Klitschko threw everything he had in the final round for a knockout, but ended up losing on all three of the judges’ scorecards.

Meanwhile, Klitschko is already demanding for a rematch.

The fight had been preceded with some tough talk by Fury, but he showed humility after snatching the Champion’s four titles.

He said his rise to become Heavyweight Champion was not easy and despite being undefeated so far in his career, he was constantly written off.

Hollande, Merkel Urge Putin To Broker Ukraine Ceasefire

Members of a group of separatists stand outside an office in the town of Druzhkovka, Donetsk regionFrench President, Francois Hollande, and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, urged Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Thursday to encourage separatists in Eastern Ukraine to reach an agreement with the Ukrainian authorities, the French President’s office said.

Hollande and Merkel stressed in a conversation with the Russian President, the importance of implementing a deal reached in Berlin on Wednesday between the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine in order to achieve a bilateral ceasefire, according to the statement from Hollande’s office.

“They (Hollande and Merkel) called on the Russian President to support the organization of a meeting of the contact group before July 5 in order to define conditions for the ceasefire,” Hollande’s office said in the statement.

“To this effect, they asked President Putin to intervene to encourage the separatists to negotiate and find an agreement with the Ukrainian authorities.”

Hollande and Merkel are due to hold a phone conversation with Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko in the coming hours, Hollande’s office added.

Ukraine Begins Anti-Terror Operations In North Donetsk

Ukraine-TurchynovThe acting President of Ukraine, Olexander Turchynov, has announced the start of an “anti-terrorist operation” against pro-Russian separatists.

Addressing parliament on Tuesday, Turchynov said that the operation began in the “north of Donetsk Region” and was being conducted “stage by stage, in a responsible… manner”.

Mr Turchynov said the aim of the operation in Donetsk was to “protect Ukrainian citizens, to stop the terror, to stop the crime, to stop the attempts to tear our country apart”.

Ukrainian armoured vehicles were seen massing on Monday as separatist militants braced for an attack.

The US and Russian presidents have discussed the crisis by telephone.

Barack Obama urged Vladimir Putin to use his influence to make separatists in Donetsk and other parts of eastern Ukraine stand down.

Mr Putin denied that Russia was intervening in the crisis.

Pro-Russian rebels have seized buildings in about 10 towns and cities across Ukraine’s eastern provinces, which form the heartland of Ukraine’s heavy industry.

Thousands of Russian troops are reported to be deployed along the border, kindling fears that any crackdown on the rebels could trigger an invasion.

Russia annexed the Ukrainian province of Crimea last month, after it broke away and held a controversial referendum on self-determination.