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Inspirational Kyiv stories: Valentina Sanina Schlee

Today, when all of us have more time for our beloved affairs and interesting discoveries, Premier Hotels and Resorts offers you to feel the spirit of Kyiv and inspired with the stories of the legendary Kyiv native persons.

Yulia Bevzenko, manager of Kyiv, tour guide and author of the Shukay project has prepared 5 inspirational Kyiv stories especially for Premier.

The story of my last inspiration began in Uzhgorod in 2017. In all the cities and countries that I visit, I take individual tours with guides. In Uzhgorod, we had an excursion with Victor Opalenik and at one point he showed us a tiny sculpture of the Statue of Liberty. Just a small sculpture was attached on the railing of the embankment and Victor told us that there are already more than 20 such sculptures in the city and all of them are somehow connected with Uzhgorod, Ukraine and Hungary. I did not need anything else, neither a tour, nor a house, nor facts; I wanted to find all the sculptures. Finding each, I was happy and jumped like a child. Having returned to Kyiv, I realized that it would be great if there was such a project in Kyiv. Only so that these sculptures tell the story of Kyiv. Thought and forgot.

So the project “Shukay!” was born, because I simply could not take and forget about such an idea. In two years, we installed 24 mini-sculptures and on April 10 the twenty-fifth (it was an online opening).

Creating the project “Shukay!”, I realized that I needed new skills and new strengths. I needed to be uncompromising, faith in my idea, a little crazy, industriousness and many stories about Kyiv. Every time it was difficult for me, I remembered the stories of those people about whom I will tell today. So, get acquainted, Valentina Sanina Schlee.

I Story


Imagine a red-haired beauty with blue eyes walking along Khreshchatyk, all men turn their necks, and she does not even blink an eye. Imagine a girl who is oppressed by a gymnasium uniform and walking in formation during breaks. Imagine that she constantly provoked the gymnasium authorities, appearing in classes in white aprons of her own cut or with golden braids laid in an unusual manner.

Imagine how Olexander Vertinsky falls in love with her, and she gives a turn from the gate, gets married and leaves abroad.

By the way, Olexander Vertinsky, after their breaking up, wrote the following lines:

It ended so fine
logical and simple in the end
You said that now in the bedroom
Do not bring hearts. 

Cruel and uncompromising, right?

Valentina Sanina Schlee moved only with her wardrobe, which was completely sewn by her. The simplest fabrics and styles, but very elegant and feminine. When she and her husband moved to New York, she knew for sure that she wanted to make a fashion. In 1925, she and her partner opened a fashion house called “Sonya and Valentina”. Due to the difference of views, she broke up with Sonya and the fashion house “Valentine” appeared, it was opened on Manhattan.

The understanding of its target audience was this: “Customers must be rich, famous and very rich.” And everyone wanted dresses from Valentina.

And because of her grip and self-confidence, rumors begin to circulate about her as a dictator in fashion industry. She dictated to her clients what style, fabrics and finish they prefer, not paying attention to their opinion.

She wore dresses along the waistline while everyone was wearing a lowered waistline.

She wears hair to the knee and lays the braid with a crown on her head while everyone cuts their hair short.

She becomes the face of advertising campaigns of her own brand, which at that time was not yet accepted. Everyone considered this as a marketing failure. She hated high-heeled shoes, so she did not want to serve the clients who came to her in high-heeled shoes. And she said that in a mink coat they can go only to a football match.

When the result of the work did not coincide with the client’s initial wishes, Valentina answered to all reproaches and perplexities that since she was entrusted with sewing a dress, she knew better which dress she needed to sew so that it would best suit the customer. And she was never mistaken — her dresses were always FANTASTIC.

She introduced into fashion a hairnet, neck dressing, ballet shoes on ribbons without heels, which she proposed to wear on dark silk stockings.

Her main activity was the creation of theatrical costumes and this played a cruel joke with her. Once, her friend actress Greta Garbo came to her fitting room and stood completely naked. At that moment, Valentina's husband went into the workshop, saw Greta, she turned to him and without dressing she talked to him for half an hour. Greta Garbo becomes the lover of Valentina’s husband and even buys an apartment in the same house where they live. They were very similar in appearance, insanely. Even when I was looking for photographs, at some time I couldn’t understand who is who.

At first, they really were just three friends. But then George and Greta rested in France all summer, and Valentina at that moment was resting in Venice. Then they united and again lived in New York.

This went on for 20 years. And then one fine day George Schlee had a heart attack, and the doctors who came to help did not believe their eyes, that in front of them was Greta Garbo and asked her for autographs. According to Valentina thoughts, this led to the death of her husband, that the doctors did not provide assistance on time. Valentina blamed Greta Garbo for this and their relationship deteriorated forever. Valentina remained with a broken heart, but forever in fashion.

She knew herself well and no one was able to impose on her what was not characteristic of her. She perceived the world as a theater and created for herself the role she wanted to play. She was very hardworking and hardy.

This story tells us that uncompromising in work does not mean uncompromising in personal life.