Working in the arts seems only natural for Olena Swoboda.
Growing up in a small city in central Ukraine, she loved spending time with her grandparents. Her maternal grandmother made handmade rugs and embroidered clothing and traditional towels, and her paternal grandma was an artist whose paintings hung in galleries.
“I always wished I had this talent, but I did not,” the Elburn photographer said.
However, she later discovered her own artistic talent in photography.
Swoboda went to photography school and did private lessons with a photographer in Ukraine in 2017, then moved to Kane County in 2018. She enjoys doing portraits, family photos, small weddings and events, and branding sessions for businesses, remarking that it’s always been her dream to find a job that doubles as something you would do for fun.
She felt compelled to use her talent to help friends and family in Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia in late February. In mid-March, she posted to several Kane County Facebook groups, writing: “I was born and raised in Ukraine and the situation in my home country is heartbreaking for me. My family and friends are in Ukraine as are millions of other people going through it now.”
Her post stated that she was offering a discounted photography rate and that the money would be donated to kids and families in Ukraine. That discounted rate is still available this month — she’s offering a photo shoot with 20 high-resolution photos for $100 instead of the usual $200, with proceeds going toward volunteers in Ukraine. For businesses that are already supporting Ukraine through their own fundraisers, she is offering a free branding photo session as a thank-you.
Swoboda’s home city of Kropyvnytskyi is about 190 miles southeast of the capital, Kyiv. At press time, Kropyvnytskyi had been spared some of the bombing but was seeing a large influx of people who have been displaced. If you’re interested in helping, she said donating or supporting local fundraisers is often quicker than mailing supplies.
“People still need help,” Swoboda said. “I want to help.”
This story originally appeared in the May issue of Kane County Magazine.