Today, we have the privilege of speaking with Dr. Rajeev Fernando, an extraordinary individual whose presence in Kyiv during a time of air alert has captured our attention. Dr. Fernando, can you share a bit about yourself and how you found yourself in Kyiv?
Thanks for your generous introduction. As soon as I learned about the aggression which started on February 24th 2022, I packed my bags and headed to Ukraine on February 28th. Owing to the influx of refugees at the Polish Ukrainian border Medyka I was asked to cover night shifts there. From there, I volunteered in refugee medicine, sent in supplies, be it medical or loaves of bread to the community. Everyday the needs in the community varied. Subsequently I then started a wellness center to assist in optimizing the mental health of Ukrainians.
Fascinating. Let’s dive into the remarkable events surrounding your presence in Kyiv during the air alert. Can you recount that morning when you emerged from the underground accompanied by a group of Ukrainian women?
I remember when I was in Kyiv last April, many times my medical work was interrupted and we had to head to be rushed into bomb shelters for safety. Subway stations served a dual purpose for keeping us safe. The nights were cold, we kept hearing air defense work, hitting enemy missiles ‘thud, after thud”. I made many friendships in the bomb shelters over the months in Kyiv. That night felt alive and and as we were leaving the subways station the very same station the mood was different, laughs, happiness and sharing great stories of Ukraine. Exchanging stories of our cultures. It was another sign of Ukrainian everyday resilience and how all of us were not deterred to go out and socialize safely. Kyiv city was founded 1541 years ago and the people have always been resilient. It comes naturally.
Photo: Lucias angels Reconstructive bra auction.
Photo credit – Eric Striffler
Your presence and assistance during that moment must have made a significant impact. Shifting gears, let’s talk about your work beyond that eventful morning. Could you tell us about the initiatives and projects you’re involved in to support the people of Ukraine?
Yes, and in the morning it was back to work like any other day. Later that afternoon we had organized a seminar for women with cancer to support them emotionally during this difficult periods. We provided manicures, pedicures and facials. Many women have forgotten themselves during these difficult times and wanted to remind them about the power of being women. It was a wonderful celebration.These women have poured their emotions onto canvas, creating powerful and moving pieces of art that serve as a testament to their strength and determination. Thier artwork was auctioned in New York. I just did an event in New York for a brilliant organization called Lucias angels supporting cancer survivors. I designed a suede blue suit and yellow tie to honor the Ukrainian flag
Photo: Leather jackets children
Designed by Dr. Rajeev Fernando and Chiraag Kapoor
How did you get into fashion ?
In the third grade I won student of the month for my artwork and over the years there began my love for fashion. After Medical school, I took some time to pursue understanding fashion. I worked at the Ralph Lauren section in California. It was a brilliant experience people come to the store saying ‘ I have a date at 6 pm, find me an outfit’ I moved to Barcelona for a few months and this was the time when I began appreciating bright and colorful clothing. Barcelona was not a place for minimalist and neutral dressing. From here I developed collection of my upcoming brand “Rajeev Fernando New York- RFNY”. As at that time we we were concerned about attacks on the energy infrastructure last winter and loss of power I designed and arranged production of winter jackets for children and donated around Ukraine to keep them warm. We plan to launch my new brand officially in September and are extremely excited to host a Fashion show in Kyiv to bring back Ukranian fashion back onto the global scene. Our local designers have so much to offer.
Your dedication to improving healthcare in Ukraine is commendable. Have you witnessed any specific instances where your efforts have made a tangible difference in the lives of the people you serve?
Yes, my healthcare experiences in have been brilliant. Refugees are very simple people and have been very appreciative. I was in Bucha last April and when we had learnt about victims of gender based violence, I knew we had to start a program to assist these women, soldiers with PTSD and childhood trauma. he WHO estimates more than 10 million in Ukraine are suffering from mental health disorders. Our wellness center has served more than 400 people and and now looking forward to starting more centers in recently liberated town/ cities. There is so much more work to be done particularly for women’s health. One can learn about my charity work which is available at the web site if the organization named Chiraj at www.chiraj.org. I run this with my classmate Sriram Daita. We have supplied free menstrual hygeine products for thousands of women in India and Ethiopia.
Your passion for women’s health is truly making a difference, you might just be the sexiest doctor alive?
(Chuckles) Not a chance. Women are frequently forgotten in conflict and it is an honor for me to serve them and bring their their health needs to the forefront. Slava Ukraini!
Thank you, Dr. Fernando, for sharing your extraordinary experiences. Your actions during the air alert and your ongoing humanitarian work are truly inspiring. We wish you continued success in your very important endeavors.
Producer or author of the idea:
Assistant to Producer:
Model Zhuk Yuliya
Model Luzanovska Sofia
Model Kipriianova Kateryna
Photographer Taras Kovalchuk
Producer and author of the idea Tamara Zykova
Assistant to Producer Sofiia Zykova
Dr. Rajeev Fernando