She is 21 and a beautiful actress, with shiny brown hair and big eyes, and a dancer. She is also deaf.
Maryana Yatseviyuk of Ivano-Frankivsk has won two prestigious titles – Miss Deaf Europe and Vice Miss Deaf World. But her life is not likely to change much.
“Winners of common beauty contests usually get expensive gifts, do charity and start their modeling careers, but that’s not the case here,” says Yatseviyuk. “We don’t get any benefits. A month after the contest our lives become pretty much the same.”
This is just one of many differences that the beauty talks about when describing the abyss between her own world and “the world of people who can hear,” as she calls it.
Even though Yatseviyuk is used to the problems of being deaf, there is still some bitterness. “It was tough with boys. Most of them would just disappear when they understood that I am deaf,” she recalled during an interview in which he smiled often but looked down when asked questions she thought were tough.
But it worked, in the end, to weed out the unworthy admirers. She is engaged and plans to start her own family in September. Her future husband was among those who went with her to Prague, where the world and European beauty contests for deaf women took place. Though moral support was not all she needed to compete and win over 47 other contenders.
“Usually the Ukrainian Deaf Association allocates money from its budgets to support such contests, but this time we got partial financial support from the Oleksandr Yanukovych Charity Fund,” says Ukrainian Deaf Association’s head and director of Radyga theater Volodymyr Goncharenko.
Yatseviyuk says she is grateful for hearing aids from the Oleksandr Yanukovych Charity Fund to replace ones that broke earlier. But the fund did not cover all expenses, contrary to what some media reported. “They also sponsored my dress and make-up, but that’s it,” she explains.
The Ukrainian Deaf Association has held beauty contests for about 15 years, and has had others win the title of Miss Europe or Miss World. But Goncharenko says she is special. “She’s always been our little star,” he said.
Yatseviyuk kept working in theater after graduation and has two major roles in Lisova Pisnya and Assol, though she claims to like supporting roles the most. “That may sound strange, but I don’t like to attract lots of attention,” she says.
She wants to continue her acting career, but doesn’t dare to dream about international fame.
“It is impossible to become world famous when you are deaf. Our opportunites are so limited,” she explains. “And these two worlds are so separated. I’m afraid that people who can hear will never fully understand us.”
Kyiv Post staff writer Daryna Shevchenko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org