Kseniya Simonova, a Lady of the Sand, was born on April 22nd, 1985 in Evpatoriya, a small city on the Crimean peninsula, in the South of Ukraine.
Kseniya was the first, beloved child who was surrounded with warm, creativity and beauty. Her mother, Irina Simonova, an artist, stylist, theatric designer and teacher of fine arts was sure that her daughter has to develop her talent since early childhood. Dad, Alexander Simonov, a former military man, officer who now runs a business in sphere of design and furniture, was a person who taught little Kseniya to be honest and strong. Kseniya who has Russian origins was born and lives in Ukraine and speaks fluently both Russian and Ukrainian. She is sure that her country is unique, and also because children are bilingual since childhood.
Since she was a child, Kseniya painted, drew and designed with her mother who was a real fairy for a little girl. There was no doubt for them about her entering the Volkoff’s Artistic School of Evpatoriya, one of the best schools in Ukraine. She graduated from the Artistic school of Evpatoriya with the highest scores. After that Kseniya realized she could not longer live without serious artistic studying and decided to continue. She asked the Headmaster of Fine Arts School for a permission to study in the Class of her mother and after finishing the course entered the specialized studio for young artists on the base of the School of Fine Arts in Evpatoriya.
Another passion of Simonova was poetry and literature. At school, Kseniya wrote a set of scientific research on English folk poetry, especially English folk songs and ballads of 15-16 centuries. After getting awards on tis research, she decided to make a more difficult one — make poetic translations of Ukrainian folk songs into English with the same rhythm and style.She also made an amount of poetic translations not only of the folk poetry but of great poets — William Shakespeare, Robert Burns, George Gordon Byron and others into Russian and Ukrainian. She translated American hymns into Russian and Ukrainian hymn into English. For her researches, Kseniya got many Republican Diplomas and a right to enter any University in Ukraine (on English Philology Departments) without entering exams.
But Kseniya knew she has to go another way and suddenly for everyone, in 2002 she has chosen a different specialization — Psychology and graduated (2007) from the Taurida National University (one of the best Universities on the territory of former USSR) with Red Diploma (the best scores at course). Her scientific specialization was Psychophysiology — a sphere between Psychology and Anatomy. And her diploma project was also connected with her artistic perception of reality — it was about a color therapy in Psychology. She made a presentation of her 4-year scientific research, being pregnant, and got ovations from professors and students. At the same time with studying in University, Kseniya entered Ukrainian Academy of Printing on the Graphics Department (2003) and had to study in two universities at once. She graduated in 2008 and proved her Diploma Project with a 6-mounth baby in her hands. She got the highest scores in the Academy for a project «Chocolate» bilingual magazine which then became her own business project.
In 2007 Kseniya got married Igor Paskaru, a person who she calles a Magician and the Most Talented Man in the World. He was a theatric director and glossy editor. He was a person who told her: «You will be a star. Believe me…» Their son Dmitry was born on November 27th, 2007 and became Kseniya’s muse. From the day he was born she drew him, his face, his tiny hands, saying that Dmitry is the most beautiful sight ever.
Since 2006, being a student of two Universities at once, Kseniya worked in a «Crimean Riviera» glossy magazine (cultural and historical specialization) as an artist where she started her personal genre of Graphics — «Psychoanalytical Line Graphics» — mixture of sacrificed psychoanalytical images and reality shown in line graphics. It was the very place where she met her future husband. He worked there as an editor-in chief and his first proposal was not a job of an artist. He asked Simonova to pose as a model in a new chapter of the magazine about beautiful and creative people of the world. Kseniya agreed and her photos appeared in the magazine with a big success among public. In a small interview which was printed near the photo session, she said that she draws all the time. After reading that, people stated sending letters to the editors asking to print some of Kseniya’s pictures. In two mouth she got her job as an artist of the magazine. Igor was always nearby ready to help. She passed her annual exams in her University, then in the Printing Academy, made drawings and paintings for the magazine, danced hip-hop trice a week in her beloved dance studio, went to a gym and took lessons on boxing and Russian fighting. When she was asked about how she managed to do it all, she said: «I love it. I also go to disco-clubs and bars, I read in the Library and have good appetite.»
She was not working as an artist. She lived it and it was her air. Once Kseniya said that if someone tights her hands she would probably draw with her legs.
Since November 2007 Kseniya and her husband Igor Paskaru established a glossy magazine «Chocolate» which was edited in two languages — English and Russian. All materials there were original and specially made for this edition. Kseniya was absolutely against using anything from the Internet. Each chapter was presented with a beautiful drawing made by Simonova, each page had a drawn element which Kseniya prepared considering the text and photos that will be there. The project was honored as one of the most successful cultural editions for foreigners in Ukraine. But in autumn 2008, during the crisis, the team of Kseniya and Igor has lost the investors and they had to freeze the edition.
Becoming a Sand Artist. A path in the mountains
As well as her mother, Kseniya always dreamed of being more than just a classical artist, who draws and paints on the paper and is closed in the edges of using materials: «Since I was three, in my dreams I saw amazing pictures… when there was no Universe, just an eternal snow with huge long shadows of strange long people, mysterious and magic trails on the snow and strange pink light from a non-existing sun… It was so incredibly beautiful…» When little Kseniya woke up, she drew the pictures from her strange dreams in the air with her finger. She believed that anyone could see her drawings. Her mother smiled and said that Kseniya has more talent and fantasy than her Mom. Kseniya dreamed of becoming an artist who can draw by heart not by pencil, without edges and walls. «I believed that it was possible to attach a little twinkle or a star on my finger to make the pictures seen for everyone…»
It may sound surprising, but Kseniya’s parents didn’t want her to be an artist and follow her Mom’s steps. Kseniya explained: «Both Mom and Dad knew that the life of an artist is a constant struggle. I realized that and was ready to it. If you chose this profession, you’re fighting during all your life. You do not live ordinary life- like comfort, buying the furniture… You just have no time. You’re always looking for something more, for the essence… and I… Actually I was never interested in a life of comfort, buying furniture and household. Although I did all household as a wife and mother of my son. I cooked, cleaned, designed our interior. And I enjoyed it with a knowledge that I have something else to enjoy — my creative activity».
The idea of making a sand performance came not to Kseniya, but to her husband Igor Paskaru, who wanted to include that to a new project of his theatre «Private Collection». Firstly Kseniya refused: «Immediately I realized that this is the thing very difficult to perform with. It was sand — not pencils or paints. No fixation! How this can be used as a drawing material?!» But she felt she was close to her dream — being an unusual artist who can be free from a pencil and paints. At the same time, the situation was very severe — their magazine was frozen, the business collapsed. Kseniya and Igor were driving their ship on the wave of a crisis with a little son who was just 10 month. Simonova remembers: «I had a terrible depression. Nothing was interesting for me, no colors around, just grey world… I had problems with lactation and somehow had to calm myself. Igor said: «Either we will go crazy or let’s do something! What about the sand?» I said: «Why not?»
Firstly, Kseniya took some sand from the beach. But it was a too uncomfortable for sand animation — the structure and shape of the sanddrops did not fit for drawing. Then they tried to use river sand, but it also did not fit. Igor spent days sitting at the computer looking for the proper sand in the Internet and finally found it. There was a group of geologists selling a special volcanic sand but it cost too much. Igor had to sell all the printing equipment which was in the office of his magazine to buy 3 kg of sand. And it was the material Kseniya called «the most academical in the world».
Simonova started practicing drawing with sand spending for five or four hours a day in a small dark room in a house they rented. According to her words, it was so difficult that she wanted to give it up once in three days. But all her depression vanished into the thin air. Although her new job was physically hard — she had to stand for long hours. Ksenyia trained at nights for three month. From early morning till the evening she was an ordinary housewife, a mother of a little boy Dima, doing what all mothers do — cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, playing with her son. From 10 pm to 4 am she was a sand artist. To realize the essence of sand animation which was based in constant transformations the images, she had to rebuild her sight and start seeing all objects surrounding her in sand. The insight finally came to Simonova one night. There was a light in her window until morning. The dawn came and the true inspiration entered her brain. Kseniya felt like there opened a second sight in her eyes. In the dark spots she began to see new faces and stories. She confessed: «That evening was the most important. I had to decide whether I need it or not. If I could not feel how to do it, I would probably take all these frames and sand and take it to the basement. Thanks God, this feeling came to me and I realized I will never give it up.»
«Ukraine’s got talent». Winner who came not to win
The process was started. Since then the chain of images gave birth to a true sand animation and real sand show. At that time, Igor saw a TV advertisement of the casting for a show «Ukraine’s got talent». The prize was one million Ukrainian hryvna. It’s more than 110,000 dollars. Kseniya decided to enter the casting. Just to try. She says: «Everything in my life comes to me accidentally and bring me happiness without my expectations».
At the cast-shooting, she presented a sand story (2 min) called «Circus» and was chosen one of the 50 competitors of the semi-final. On the step of choosing the 50 participants of semi-finals, Kseniya got a terrible fever and doctors didn’t allow her to go to Kiev (1000 km from Evpatoriya). But she came. «When I knew I was among 50 most talented people in Ukraine, I felt much better and in an hour my fever disappeared. If I failed coming, according to the rules of the show, my place had to be given to another person. It is a wonder I managed to come».
In the semi-final of «Ukraine’s got talent», Kseniya was going to perform a sand story about the Great Patriotic War which she created in the memory of fallen soldiers who saved her county from the Nazi. Kseniya refused the proposals of the producers to choose a more popular theme. She said: «I just want to bring some immortal sense to this show. Not just pictures or video clips. Something close to all hearts… It was also a tribute to my great-grandfather who heroically died in 1943 defending his Motherland». The sand story Simonova presented in live TV shooting of the semi-final was called «You are always nearby». It was an 8-minute live sand story of a young couple who were separated by the war. The young Lady and little Son were waiting for the Man to come from war, but he was killed. In the end he came to their window and watched them with a sight of love and hope. There was not a single emotion on the face of the performer. Simonova’s hands worked incredibly fast. Nobody knew what was going on in her soul. From the interview of Simonova: «It was so emotionally hard, and I now still cannot think about those minutes without pain… My hands were dyeing and reviving making the images.» Kseniya was hoping to get a little advertisement for her as an artist, but it turned an emotional bomb explosion. Almost the entire audience was in tears. Applause came down just after a minute after she finished her performance. Everyone in the hall applauded standing. Kseniya passed the semi-final and passed the final of the contest. In the third round, at Final, the sand story of Kseniya was about parents who gave birth to a son, the son has grown up, became successful and adult and forgot his old parents. Kseniya wanted the children to remember their father and mother — people who gave them lives — and call them. The resonance was enormous — people came to her in streets saying: «After watching your story, I took the phone and called my mom. I haven’t talk to for her a year. I called my mom after your story. Thank you very much! » Simonova said that these words were more than winning the show. During the interview with the judges in super-final, she said: «I’m not sure I want to win the show. But if a single person who didn’t call his Mom, will do it after my sand story — I will be more than a Winner!»
Kseniya became the winner of the show «Ukraine’s got talent. » And got 100,000 euro. She was named an on-line sensation when during a day her video from the show received more than a million views. During a year it got over 25 million views. Kseniya understood what happened only when she returned to her native town Evpatoria. She could no longer walk freely in the streets. She was surrounded by people everywhere, and was always asked for an autograph. On the money they won, Igor and Kseniya have bought a house in Evpatoria. Immediately they got hundreds of invitations to come and make a sand performance from all over the world. In her interviews, Simonova said: «It’s not me who did it. It’s God who did it. I don’t know why, I don’t think I deserve so many wonders in my life. I am eternally happy!»
In 2007 Kseniya Simonova has started a social movement which received the name «Live, My Sunny». This organization was aimed to help children who need treatment and material help, pregnant women who were going to make abortion because of leaving in need but who desided to give birth to their children despite material problems. Also it helps people who suffer with oncology. Simonova also conducts educational work in matters of morality. Collaborates with the Crimean diocese.
— In the 2009-2010 school year, school teachers of Crimea held a competition for the best lesson «The lesson of morality». It was organized by Simferopol and Crimea Diocese , Ministry of Education and Science of the Crimean Republic, the Crimean Orthodox medical and educational center, «Life.» Simonova was the patroness of the competition — thirty best teachers received original works of the artist, and those who took the top places received prizes, they got laptops and home appliances.
— At the invitation of the President of Malta George Abel Kseniya Simonova took part in a charity marathon which managed to raise 2.5 million euros for the treatment of cancer and other diseases.
— In 2009, 2010 and 2011 Kseniya held several charity concerts, the income of which was transferred for the purchase of equipment for the maternity hospital of Evpatoriya.
— Collected and passed the money for treatment of Savva Pilipchuk — a boy who suffered with cerebral palsy (charity concert and exhibition «The Sand Personality» in Evpatoriya), for treatment for Olga Kravchuk, a young mother who suffered with cancer (exhibition and concerts in Simferopol).
— Created about fifty sand films for critically ill children and adults, and also films aimed to help medical institutions. In December 2010 created a series of charity films for Donetsk Center of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery. A series of TV-films «Cancer is curable» (Ukrainian translation).
— Participant of the rally «Ukraine without abortion» (2011)
— Member of the Ukrainian action «Helping children to grow up healthy», in defense of children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (2012)
— More than three years Kseniya Simonova actively helps Simferopol city orphanage house.