By Екатерина Шелыгина / Kateryna Shelyhina
I am Kateryna Shelyhina from Odessa, Ukraine, and for the last ten years, sea glass has been my life. Living near a quite “fruitful” beach, I started collecting sea glass and thinking of ways to use it. I made a lot of wall mosaics in my flat, then I wanted to make a ring with a green sea glass piece, so I learned stained glass techniques. At that point I thought I was the first person to use sea glass in jewelry, as in my country almost no one cherishes sea glass. Only much later did I learn how big the world community of sea glassers is!
Learn more about Kateryna's life in Ukraine before the war.
Over time I became totally obsessed, making a lot of things with sea glass, from small home décor pieces to statuettes to street art and more. At my wedding, I had a sea glass diadem and flower lampshade as bouquet. I was blessed with a lot of great customers, my Etsy shop was growing, and I was earning and able to buy new materials to make more complicated sea glass projects.
And then the war came. My parents, sister, and my young niece in the city of Melitopol fell under Russian occupation almost immediately. Odessa was under relentless attacks from the air. My mom begged me to flee so at least she wouldn’t need to worry about me. That’s how I ended up in Poland after three days on the road, carrying only one backpack. My husband and three cats stayed in Odessa.
I only brought smaller items with me—mostly jewelry—and gifted it all away to nice people I met during my journey. Now I live in świnoujście, a port city in Poland on the Baltic Sea. Back home I worked from my bedroom studio, but here I live with other refugees, so that wouldn’t work. Fortunately, the owners of Hotel Trzy Wyspy not only provided me and other refugees with housing, but found me a workshop in the city’s Municipal Cultural Center.
I’ve had tremendous support and kindness from people whom I have met online or in real life. It has been the most amazing experience. Total strangers have sent me sea glass, equipment, and other materials. I even got to work with real stained glass—which I had never tried before—when someone gifted me beautiful scraps.
Working is not only a way to support myself and my loved ones who have lost their income; it literally keeps me sane. My work also stops me from scrolling through the news constantly, dying inside every time I get bad news from cities where my family members live. I’m also able to share some money with volunteers helping abandoned animals and humanitarian workers in occupied Ukrainian cities.
All the sea glass I have now has been donated from around the world. I have found only two pieces of sea glass here, but I have started using seashells from the beach to create new art.
Thanks to the help I have received, I have begun creating new art and can now ship it from Poland through my website seastainedglass.com. I have some of my pieces in the Cultural Center gallery with a note that reads, “Take what you want, pay what you feel like.” I’m taking donations on PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org for art materials, support for my family, and donations to the volunteers who saved my cats. And, I’ve been sharing tutorials on YouTube, photos on Instagram, and posts on Reddit @SeaStainedGlass.
Photos courtesy of Kateryna Shelyhina and Robert Ignaciuk from the świnoujście Municipal Cultural Center.
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine July/August 2022 issue.