Helena Melikov is more than a Berlinograder, as a “Berlinogirl” she is also part of our Berlinograd team. We talked to the talented graphic designer about her childhood, about why Russian New Year’s Eve is such an important memory for her and what Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet have to do with her moving to Germany.
Where were you born? Where did you grow up?
I was born in Dzhetygara, Kazakhstan. It is a small town in the north of Kazakhstan, on the border to Russia.
What is the strongest memory you have of your hometown?
I remember many things from my childhood. Our dacha – where we had much work and how I secretly nibbled on the cherries and raspberries. I still remember that feeling today. But most of all, I remember New Year’s Eve. We always dressed up, prepared food all day and waited excitedly for the evening. Old movies and New Year’s Eve show kept coming on TV. Everyone gathered at the table in the evening, there was a lot of food, dancing and singing. Someone could always play the accordion or the guitar. Such evenings ended up usually with melancholic singing.
What did you do in your hometown?
I’ve spent my happy Internet-free childhood.
When did you arrive in Germany?
I was 12 and it was the year when Leo and Kate conquered the cinema screen, Diana was gone, and Ricky Martin sang un, dos, tres – 1997. I came with my parents, my brother, my grandma, my uncle and aunt to Bramsche, a small town in Lower Saxony. However, we had to leave the city after two weeks and went to Freital, a place near Dresden. I think that was my beginning of restlessness. Another 11 times followed.
When did you arrive in Berlin and what brought you here?
First time I came to Berlin was quite late, in my mid-twenties. It was an overwhelming feeling that I wanted to stay here. In fact, it took me another three years before I came back for work. At that time, I lived in Stuttgart and worked as a freelance designer very often in Berlin. And every time I was here, it felt right. Like I’m supposed to be here. At some point, I realized that I spent more time in Berlin than anywhere else. So, I had to move here. It was in 2017.
What is your profession and why?
Since 2015 I am a freelance graphic designer and photographer. As a photographer, I am interested in people. That’s why I mainly do portraits. I like the intimate moment during photography and the challenge of showing the person as it really is. But the best feeling is when people tell you what a great time they had and never thought they could look so great and real on the photos. I guess I have that feeling for people and see their inner beauty. As a graphic designer, I am not only interested in producing “beautiful things”. Beautiful things without content to bore me. Yes, I am interested in aesthetics, but it must have sense and purpose. In the last years, I have worked a lot in editorial and corporate design. But right now, I’m trying a lot of new things. To work analogue again, to try out new techniques and to find new ways. I can’t do very long time just one thing, I must move forward.
What is typical about Berlin? What do you love (or hate) about Berlin?
The diversity of food, people and places. I love that every Kiez (neighborhood) has its own character, like a person. Berlin gives you the freedom to be yourself, to find yourself and to create yourself.
What is your contribution to make Berlin a little bit more beautiful?
For 1.5 years I’m trying to live more sustainably and without garbage. I support local shops, go shopping at the market and don’t use a car.
What is your favorite place in Berlin?
I like hanging around in my neighborhood. To meet friends, have a cup of coffee and just enjoy the city life. There’s no special place for me yet. For a long time, I enjoy the feeling of not having to go away, instead of staying at home. In Berlin.