February | Svetlana Chernienko
Svetlana Chernienko- Montrealer of the month-February
Meet Svetlana Chernienko, mental health advocate, Black Lives Matter activist, body positivity advocate, mother, wife, entrepreneur, model and survivor of domestic abuse. She is the voice for many victims all around the globe and has played a pivotal role in encouraging victims to come forward, speak out and ask for help.
Her journey began as a young 19 year old woman, who fell in love and got pregnant. Her partner was abusive to say the least. Daily physical, verbal and emotional abuse was common. She gave birth and shortly after, they split up. She had the support of her family to help raise her son. Her ex came back into the picture and convinced her to go to his native town of New York city to visit his mother. That’s where the nightmare continued… She was held against her will with her newborn son, beaten and raped daily. What saved her is when her abuser accidentally left his phone behind. Svetlana was able to call for help, was rescued and flown home to safety. Unfortunately, the days, weeks and months following were a true nightmare. Panic attacks, nightmares, complex PTSD, severe anxiety and deep depression. She was heavily medicated with antidepressants and sadly, attempted suicide.
She decided it was time to go for help and says that’s what truly saved her. Svetlana is undoubtedly a survivor, a driving force that stands for justice no matter your race, gender, age or social status. She is also a strong advocate for Black Lives Matter. She has lent her support to families which lived the tragedy of losing a loved one to domestic abuse. In April 2021, Svetlana spoke at a Montreal march on behalf of the late Rebekah Harry’s family. They lost this beautiful, young, single mother to domestic violence. She was beaten to death by her boyfriend. Svetlana says that connecting to Rebekah and her family and sharing her own experience with thousands, truly affected her and brought back a string of memories and feelings from her past experiences. It took her about one month to regain her strength and focus to drag herself out of that very dark and scary place.
The message for the victims of abuse is to please speak up. It is what will help save you.
We asked Svetlana; “With all that you’ve been through, literally living through hell, what advice do you have for all of the young Svetlana’s out there who feel hopeless, who think they don’t deserve better and are trapped in a life of abuse?”. She says;” Listen to the signs, talk to those you are closest to. Believe that you can get out and get help.” She says that victims are well aware of what’s going on but need the courage to break out of that toxic and dangerous relationship. Reaching out and asking for help is the first step, no matter how hopeless a situation may seem.
JETELOVE asked: “What motivates you to want to help others?”. She says that it took her over 20 years to speak out of her past trauma. She “came out” on Global news! Once she did, she felt a tremendous weight being lifted off of her shoulders. She says it was liberating and empowering to see the overwhelming support she received from all around the world, from people who related to her story. She understood that this was her purpose, she needed to speak out and be the voice to encourage so many to finally use theirs.
What is your outlet when you are struggling with either anxiety or mental health?
Svetlana says:’ I started journaling and it’s so helpful, to re-align, remind myself of my many blessings and just focus”. She says; “ It is also so important to create a solid support network, of either family or friends or both”. She and her girlfriends make a point to plan some fun activities such as dance parties, virtual 5 à 7 cocktail hours and tries to incorporate exercise in her routine.
Svetlana has also recently launched her eco-sustainable clothing line called WÜ-SAH. This clothing line reflects her love of nature and it will remarkably be featured at New York Fashion week later this month. Svetlana couldn’t be more excited! She explained to us that there’s a clear relationship between nature and mental health; nature is known to help ground you since it invokes a sense of calmness and healing. The WÜ-SAH clothing line caters to women of all sizes from 5 to size 24. Like its founder, it is stylish, colorful and sleek.
JETELOVE asked : “Many say, you were truly sent here to deliver a message and help others.
Do you feel that there are sufficient resources to help those in dire of help who suffering from mental health?” She says; “There is definitely a lack of resources, especially these days when we all seem to be struggling more due to the pandemic. Please ask for help, call 911 if you are alone and feeling helpless and/or suicidal. They will offer support and guide you to what the next steps are. If you are considering taking your own life, please get yourself to the emergency department at the nearest hospital. They will help you. When I attempted to take my own life many years ago, my best friend called 911. Although a big part of that was a blur, what struck me the most and what I will never forget, is having survived my suicide attempt and having my stomach pumped. That was a pivotal moment for me when I awoke. I realized what I had done, that I have a lot to be thankful for. I was a young mother and my son is my priority. Despite my struggles and knowing it would be a long process to get better, I was determined at the moment. It’s a process, I still have my “bad’ days”.
JETELOVE said; “You are a mother of 4, one of your son’s Kostantine has been diagnosed with Apraxia. You often talk about how limited resources are and how long it took for him to obtain a proper diagnosis. You once again are the voice of so many living with a child with special needs. How hard is it for you to constantly be the one fighting for what’s right?” Svetlana jumped up when she heard our question and said; “Now that’s a great question! Believe it or not, with all of the interviews I’ve done, no one has ever asked me that! I can tell you that it’s really difficult to keep going and there are definitely some days that are harder than others but I know that this is meant for me”
JETELOVE is all about inclusivity, acceptance and spreading love. You have been exemplary in opening your heart, sharing your hardships and wins with the world and have helped so many regardless of who they are, or where they are from.
In these extremely challenging times, what message do you have for those who need a glimmer of hope and can’t seem to find their way to brighter days?
She says; “take a step back, find a little something that’s positive that you can focus on and remember, we are all in this together, despite you feeling alone.”
Svetlana, along with volunteers, is currently working on a worldwide database of resources to guide people as to where they can go in their own city to get help for domestic abuse, mental health issues and much more. It is called www.welcometomyeveryday.com , fingers crossed, it should be fully up and running by this summer.
JETELOVE is in awe of this powerful yet vulnerable woman. Her drive, her strength and her willingness to let us all into her world, showing us that there is hope, that things can get better if we follow important steps in recovery to get there.
If you are living with abuse, please know that you are not alone. Help is a phone call away. Please reach out to organizations such as www.amiquebec.org, www.chezdoris.org
Thank you Svetlana for being a true angel to many. For your guidance, genuineness and strength that you selflessly share with the world. It is beyond admirable, keep being the voice to thousands that feel silenced.
Go to Instagram to follow Svetlana’s journey @therealsvetlana