Golden Vintage boutique is hidden in a private villa nestled among other townhouses in an elite district of Kiev called Pechorsky. There was no sign on the entryway, only the small letters “GV” on a security phone to let the visitor know she was at the right address. The boutique sells presents for Ukrainian gold miners—or more exactly, diggers. Inside, in dramatically decadent décor, a shopper can find forests of silk and velvet designer cocktail dresses, rows of Birkin, Hermes, and Channel purses, expensive diamond rings, necklaces, armies of Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin shoes, some covered with golden spikes. Almost all shoes had thick platforms or enormous heals, for beautiful long-legged Ukrainian girls to look even longer-legged.
That is not an ordinary shop. The items on sale were gifts that wealthy Ukrainian men, bankers, businessmen, or bureaucrats give their so called “girls of glamour,” their gold-diggers. Similar showrooms pop up all over Kiev these days, some in private houses or apartments. “Here is how it works,” the Golden Vintage shop assistant, Andriy, explained, full of smiles, unveiling the lifestyle secrets of the Ukrainian elite. “The girl normally asks two of her wealthy lovers for the same present, so one gift she can sell, and the other wear, not to offend any of the gift givers.” Andriy pulled out a box of Chanel shoes for $8,000—“adored, exclusive items”—and then a Marc Jacobs watch worth $300,000.
If only Andriy were a woman, he said, he would not mind wearing some of the most interesting clothes and shoes that the Golden Vintage offered. “Our clients are smart business ladies, they know that exclusive Marc Jacobs watch or every girl’s dream, a 25cm Birkin purse, will have great value in a year or two, so smart ladies ask for the right presents,” he said. At the time when Ukraine is mired in war, poverty, a flagging economy, its golden youth acted as if they were inhabiting an Eastern European Belle Époque.
The most shocking were the plastic surgeries.
Alena Loran, a 23-year-old kept woman, bought up ad-space on billboards for “spasibushechki,” or “little thank you” notes—for fur coats, cars, a pair of new red shoes, even for cash money. Then came the little thank you for her new lips, pink and pillowy, which Loran called her “dumplings.” She even appeared in “Casta,” a Ukrainian television series, about the golden youth of Kiev, and published her own book about a provincial girl coming to live in the capital to cheat and fool rich men. It was titled Alice in Wonderland. Loran soon had sugar daddies paying for sculpted cheekbones, eyelids and a sharper chin line. “Just two weeks ago, I had three plastic surgeries,” the diva confessed to The Daily Beast from the OK Bar in Kiev.
Loran blamed the Euromaidan Revolution for causing dark times for the Ukrainian elite. “The revolution did not clean away hypocrisy. When teachers make $100 a month, golden youth spend that on a drink; judging by the Instagram pictures, everybody is now in Monaco or Miami,” she said. “Kiev feels empty.” As for the movement that toppled the crooked Yanukovych government, she wanted nothing to do with it. “I am a girl thinking of my health, I had nothing to do on that square at -20 Celsius.”
It was indeed freezing cold on Kiev’s central Maidan Square when Lesia Litvinova, a well-known filmmaker pregnant with her fourth child, became a volunteer. She joined with the protestors on the square, and then, with three more friends, founded an air organization on Frolovskaya Street to help internally displaced persons, soldiers’ families—anybody who was in need. “Since then, I have not had time to go back to my normal life,” Litvinova told The Daily Beast in an interview at her headquarters last week.“We provide clothes, dishes, toys, and other necessary items for over 500 IDPs coming here every day.” Litvinova’s oldest daughter, a 15-year-old beauty, helped her mother tend to Ukraine’s needy. But Litvinova wasn’t resentful of the 1 percent-ers, gold-diggers in their gorgeous gowns and at their expensive beauty salons. “Some of these rich people contribute big money to volunteer centers,” she said.
Outside, Kiev stood in the full glamour of its green parks and golden cupolas. A place called Tsarsky (Royal) Sport Complex, a gym equipped with the most state-of-the-art and expensive Italian machines, invited Ukrainians to spend $2,500 a month on their health, outdoing New York’s Equinox gym by an order of magnitude. Still, some justified the extravagance as a way of moving on. “Even during these difficult times, business should not stop developing, our people should have ambitions, should choose what they live for, what they work and make money for,” Yekaterina Prokorova, a marketing manager, told The Daily Beast in an interview at Tsarsky. Prokhorova has formerly been a general manager at the Ramada Hotel in Donetsk, home for most international journalists who came to cover the war in the east. Tough, dangerous situations, dealing with armed rebels, made Prokhorova a Buddhist.
Back at the OK Bar, Alena Loran, the ideologist of Kiev’s gold diggers, was planning on writing a second book, instructing provincial girls like her (she arrived here nine years ago) to to be careful. “Ukrainian men are extremely spoiled by the constant flow of beauties their way,” she said. “The perfectly sculpted faces, after plastic surgeries, girls in designer brand clothes, with gorgeous skin and hair. To make a living on your beauty, one needs to be really smart. I want to protect the girls from making some mistakes I made.”