Ksenia, how did it happen that you were crowned “Miss World”?
By chance! A friend of mine on her own responsibility sent my photos off to the international beauty contest “Vertical;” at the time I was undergoing physical therapy and recovering in the Crimea and wasn’t in Moscow. I was invited to represent the Russian Federation at the competition in Rome.
The organizers of the contest tried to draw attention not to young women with problems, but to beautiful women who courageously appeared onstage in their wheelchairs. It was real heroism. You had to overcome the huge fear living deep in your soul – the fear of being seen, of being noticed. For me it also was a victory over myself. When I found myself in a wheelchair for the first time and looked in a mirror, I started to cry. It took me a long time to get used to the wheelchair, and it was difficult. My former habit of admiring my own reflection in the mirror disappeared, since what the mirror was showing me seemed to be a kind of a mistake; it was not me. I could not reconcile myself to my new appearance. I think at a some point all women in wheelchairs feel the same. And the fact that these now beautiful, radiant, happy women not only go out – where they endure countless stares – but also take the stage to share their beauty with people, under the spotlights and flashbulbs, is really an enormous effort and a triumph.
And I think that I won, because… I had missed the dress rehearsal. At the rehearsal the women were taught not to smile when they were on the podium. I wheeled myself out to the podium and felt the audience fall suddenly silent, and then they burst into applause, people were sending me air kisses. I couldn’t help smiling!
Ksenia, do you remember the moment of the accident?
Yes, I do. When the car stopped rolling over, I opened my eyes. I could tell that I was sitting, but I wasn’t able to stand up – I couldn’t move my legs. I figured it out immediately. People were trying to open the back door, and I yelled out: don’t touch me, my spine is broken. I remember the hellish pain, and there was only one thought in my head: this is the end.
Then there was the emergency room of a village hospital. Whenever I saw anyone in a white robe, I would whisper, “please do something”. My husband was yelling, “every prescription should be discussed with me, she is pregnant!” The head of the gynecology department examined me and said, “the placenta is unbroken, the baby’s heartbeat is normal, everything is okay, you are doing great!” At that moment I realized, that we’ll continue to live. There was something to live for.
Then a seven-hour surgery followed, with a very difficult recovery from the anesthesia. The gynecologists advised me to start the rehabilitation process to get back on my feet, and kept saying that it was dangerous go through labour, that I wouldn’t be able to bear a child, that I wouldn’t be able to give birth to a normal baby, and that there was a risk of dying in labour. The specialists knew that it was impossible to give birth to a baby in my condition, but I didn’t know it and didn’t want to know. I was expecting my baby. And I told my husband: “Believe!”
We flew back to Moscow, and for the entire six months before our daughter was born I was confined to bed. I was monitored personally by the chief gynecologist of Russia, as it was the first case of the kind in our country. And when Taya was born, I’ll never forget it – she was smiling! On Taya’s first birthday my husband told me that in spite of everything I made everyone believe in a miracle and proved that miracles do exist.
What helped you to endure?
Thoughts about my baby, about my husband, about my friends. Even before the accident I had managed to create a strong “band” of friends. They didn’t give me a single opportunity to close my eyes and moan, “oh my God, how miserable I am!” They showed me so much kindness! I am absolutely calm and happy – around me there are people who love me. That’s the main thing.
What has your life been like since the accident?
A lot of people experience difficulties in relationships with their loved ones, husbands or wives may leave. Very often ill will, aggressiveness or anger appear. “Why has this happened to me?! Why are you able to walk but I’m stuck lying here?!” People may interpret this as a loud cry for everyone to go to hell. I am sure that if you are able to maintain a respectful relationship with your loved ones and towards the world, then, in spite of the tragedy, your life will become normal again. I had to learn this.
After giving birth to the baby I worked stubbornly to recover. Three training sesions per day, one of them starting at eight o’clock in the morning. A year passed working at that pace. And I realized that I couldn’t live in a gymnasium any longer. So I built some corrections into my schedule. Now my life is not only about the recovery process; I also lead an active life that is full of things to do, literally fitting my recovery program into the available time periods between my other various occupations.
But in addition to that it was necessary to find life in what I had. At the beginning, I thought that I would not be staying in the rehabilitation center for long. But time passed, and my attitude to what was happening was changing – if I was there, so be it – it was necessary. But was there anything that I could give to the other people there? I recalled that before the accident I had done make-up for models at their photo sessions. I looked at the women who surrounded me and decided to give beauty lessons. I wanted to see them looking smart and beautiful. I advertised master classes on facial care in the center. Later on, those master-classes turned into stylist consulting sessions. I introduced a trend for women in wheelchairs of wearing long dresses. People looked at me as if I was crazy: getting around in a wheelchair wearing a dress? How is it possible to imagine anything of the kind? And now I look at the young women who surround me, and realize: I was doing everything right… They are beautiful!
You are actively engaged in social and charity activities now, could you please tell us about it.
Yes, and there are reasons for being proud! I participate in the organization of a great number of projects. For example, the all-Russian project “Miss Civilization” – it’s a beauty contest that tells about the lives and personalities of young women with limited abilities. The project is not merely a photo session that gives a crown to the winner; instead it presents a whole range of educational and inspiring events with a beautiful end. As a rule, after running this type of contest, a region acquires 10 new “stars” who each become activists in some sphere, helping other people and lightening their hearts.
Also, there are organizations under my patronage, like the international festival of inclusive dance “Odukhotvorenie” (Personification); “The National Patronage Service,” whose activities are aimed at providing help to people who suffered through a trauma or a severe illness; and the rehabilitation center for children “Zdravstvuy” ( Be healthy), which provides rehabilitation and support to special kids.
And these are not all the projects I’m involved with – there is everything from my ongoing cooperation with a range of educational institutions, to my work providing Moscow and Crimean beaches with facilities for people with disabilities.
After the accident did you think about why it had happened?
Yes, of course. I had a lot of questions six years ago, the main one of which was: “what is the purpose of it?” Now I understand what that purpose is: I must serve people, must help them. Sometimes I wonder whether I would have been able to devote myself to community service, to helping people, if I could still walk?
I also think that it doesn’t matter what there was “before.” What I have now is great. Every day is beautiful the way it is, bringing new experiences. Also, I’ve learnt to value what I have. Of course, sometimes I have a feeling of injustice about what is happening. I wish I could dance, or ride a bike, or run, or just walk in heels!
But no, I still haven’t given in to the circumstances, I haven’t got completely used to the wheelchair. I’ll never give up – I’m not that sort of person. And my faith hasn’t run out. And do you know what I believe in? I believe that soon there will be a great leap forward in the area of medicine, and a new “Einstein” will invent something that will increase nerve conduction in the spinal cord. It will allow a lot of people to get up out of their wheelchairs. And I don’t just believe, I’m doing everything possible to be ready for it – not only morally, but physically too. I know that I will be able to walk.
What gives me strength is not only my faith and the active role I take in my life, but also my family. We are once again expecting a baby. I am so happy!