In 2013 after a few months of the publication of a text of mine in the site, I decided to visit the page where it was published. At the bottom of the page was a comment to the text that said “Beautifully written and so true! I had the similar feelings that you describe! thank you! “. This comment sensitized me so much, to the point of wanting to personally thank the person who wrote it. This person was Yana Kirakovskaya. A brief search on facebook was enough to find Yana and thank her for the comment. I also noticed that Yana was developing a project very similar to mine. Hence the invitation to an interview for the site was a small step. Although she accepted the invitation, the response took 5 years :), during which I followed her evolution and her project. Maybe 5 years would really be the time to share something as special as the interview that follows.


1. Who is Yana?

Yana : Yana is a Russian Kiwi, a citizen of the world. A Dog lover, Generous Soul, Dreamer, Achiever, Campaigner, Fifth Element, Urban Mermaid who finds herself in peace dancing freely, smiling and playing in the public city spaces or floating somewhere alone in the ocean. I am a storyteller, performer, public speaker, creative director at Papaya Stories, a true hub of inspiration. I believe in the transformative and healing power of the compelling and inspiring storytelling as well as creating the movement where people can appreciate the moment of NOW.


2. Some years ago you quit your Job to embrace and develop an inspirational project “Papaya Stories”. Is the project today what you imagined when you started? Tell us a little about this adventure, the main obstacles you had to overcome and what is now Papaya Stories.


Yana : Thank you. Maybe from a side it looked like this. But let me provide you with a better background. I didn’t quit my job straight away to start the papaya stories.
I moved from Russia to New Zealand 8 years ago without an intention to stay and start over again. But when I finished my studies, I decided to give it a go, find a permanent job that will allow me to stay in NZ and also apply for the kiwi residency. That was the time I started Papaya Stories. It started as the creative outlet for myself while I was working full-time at the digital marketing agency 5 years ago in Auckland, NZ. I worked as an Account Manager, my creative part was neglected most of the time so I needed something else to keep myself creatively fulfilled and satisfied. I met lots of interesting people outside of work who were sharing their life inspiring stories with me. I started writing those short stories in my Russian blog and then a few friends of mine encouraged me to set up a separate online platform so I could write for both audience – english-speaking and russian-speaking audiences.

That’s how I started the Papaya Stories project. I still remember the first story I wrote about Brad Masters, the famous surf photographer I met on the plane while flying to Bali 7 years ago. When he told his story I couldn’t believe my ears. He left me with a smile and his local phone number. Next day I bought my fav magazine (Surfer’s Path – it stopped publishing) and found a story about him that he told the magazine’s contributor word for word. That’s when I realised that I couldn’t leave the island without seeing Brad again and listening to his story. Since then I felt like I opened a special chakra in me that led me to meet lots of extraordinary ordinary humans whom I had a meaningful Big conversation time with that shaped the foundation for Papaya Stories online platform – we feature stories about ordinary people with extraordinary lives, dreams, goals, attitudes and project to show that each of us is unique and extraordinary when we start to follow our journey from within. We stand for Authenticity, Creativity, Diversity, Growth, Journey, Mental Health, Potential and Wellbeing.

So Papaya Stories is not only a unique platform, an online storytelling platform and events entertainment, placemaking agency that inspires people to live to the fullest. It’s my personal reminder of how much I’ve grown and transformed over the years.

Inspiring stories along with the portrait photography is the key element of our platform. However as we stand for the personal growth, self-development and we believe that each of us can change for the better and follow our passions, we have to do the Mahi (maori word), we have to do our work, we have to invest in ourselves. I do believe that in order to change we have to break through the previous patterns and try something new. This is why our events elements is so crucial to inspire people to experience the magic, joy and inspiration from within. And that’s what I wouldn’t envision Papaya Stories to be like. I started it as an online lifestyle magazine that now has also become an events entertainment platform where we organise unique, immersive, interactive and out-of-the-box meaningful events & experiences that bring diverse people together so they can enjoy the moment of NOW, get free, get loose, get in touch with the true self, that inner child that is full of love, JOY, inspiration and creativity. That’s what I like the most to see that transformation / transition in a human being who came along to the event and was reserved, humble and who eventually breaking free, accepts oneself and becomes real while just being in the moment. Providing people with a platform / movement/ event where they can be emotionally and physically free is the best feeling in the world. And that’s what we are trying to do at Papaya Stories. One of our latest initiative is A Silent Disco Citywalk experience that gives a new perspective on the city through a lens of silent disco headphones. It is a curated, interactive walk that transforms the city into the La-la-land and dance floor, while connect people within the group.

The key challenge for me was to believe in myself and see how I can make Papaya Stories my number one thing that means that I can make it sustainable. That was the biggest challenge and internal conflict that I had to face. I was soooo scared to sell myself, sell my ideas, sell Papaya Stories as I felt like it’s not for sale. It’s a project of my soul. How can I monetise it? It was my question for a very long time and I couldn’t find the way to marry a practical, professional side of me with a creative, passionate, inspiring Yana? It took me a few good years (i am still in the process of discovery) to figure out what needed to be addressed and what I needed to focus on to release my blocks. I felt like before I looked out for the external permission to keep going. It took me a while to realise that the only person who was limiting myself from the success and getting out there and say what I stand for, what I do – was myself and the fear of failure, of not meeting the expectation. So in order I could promote Papaya Stories I had to do a lot of inner work myself.

So Papaya Stories is not only a unique platform, an online storytelling platform and events entertainment, placemaking agency that inspires people to live to the fullest. It’s my personal reminder of how much I’ve grown and transformed over the years.

We also want to tap into new mediums to tell stories using podcasts and filming short docos about people that we find inspiring.

3. When telling to your friends and family the decision you were about to make, did you ever had to answer the question: “How you gonna make your living?”

Yana : Sure. They always question and it’s normal we live in the materialistic world and sometimes it is hard to imagine to lots of people who you can work passionaly and make decent money. I was super lucky to have my partner provides me some support. However I also freelance as a digital marketer so I could have a side income. But interestingly enough life literally pushed me to follow my Unknown path. Life taught me over the years how not to be afraid to dive into the unknown and trust the process, let go of control and surrender to the natural flow of things by keeping your focus and intention clear. I had the worst case scenario last year 2017 when I was headhunted by Penguin Random House as a Campaign Manager. So I got a job and after a few weeks I felt like I hit the ceiling again and reached my potential. I didn’t feel like I belonged there, i didn’t feel it was my place despite the fact that the industry was great (publishing books, people’s stories) but my role, the environment wasn’t great either and I started to doubt myself, my skills and vision. Little I know that I would be fired and my contract would be terminated in the most nasty way. But there is I am telling this story is not to make you feel SORRY for me. No. The reason is that that situation made me realise so much about myself, so much that i didn’t see before. I believe that what we have inside is what we attract outside. So while attracting that sort of professional disrespect towards myself I realised that I have some sort of unresolved drama that I needed to focus on to move forward in 2018.

So now as I think about what my biggest fear is all I can think of that my biggest fear is to not live to the fullest, not being true to myself and not making my wildest dreams come true.

4. What inspires you most?

Yana : The ability to change, to grow and become a better person inspires me.


5. What makes you truly happy?

Yana : Being a creator of my life, being in the flow of the chaos, realising that everything we are looking for is already within us. Once I get that REALisation and feel the connection from within I can radiate the pure joy.


6. Who is the most inspirational individual who ever met through your journey?

Yana : There are so many interesting inspiring people who shared interesting stories, life lessons with me, so it’s hard to pick just one. But as I continue my life journey, I go hand in hand, heart to heart along my dearest soulmate Katherine whom I met in New Zealand, so I would name her as the most inspirational individual in my life.

7. What is your biggest fear?

Yana : The fear was always a part of my life, paralyzing fear that wouldn’t let me say what I wanted to say, wouldn’t let me do what I wanted to do. I was so afraid of so many things in my life that I couldn’t even believe that it was possible to start living your life without feeling so much fear in my chest and in my stomach. Most of my life, decisions and behaviours was dictated by the power of fear, low vibrations not by the self-belief that I can do whatever I want because I am worth it. The fear of failure, fear of not meeting everyone’s expectations, fear of not being loved for who i am… that was my familiar language. So now as I think about what my biggest fear is all I can think of that my biggest fear is to not live to the fullest, not being true to myself and not making my wildest dreams come true. I am also afraid not to give as much love as possible to people i truly love as I live so far away from Russia. I just hope that my dearest people know and could feel through the space how much I love them.


8. What makes you proud?

Yana : I am proud that I make my wildest dreams come true. Since I was 13 years old I dreamt to live by the ocean. I didn’t know how I could make it happen and live in a different country. But look at me now – I live by the ocean now. I moved to NZ from Russia without a plan or intention to stay but falling deeply in love with the country and understanding that my urge to travel overseas was triggered by my strong desire to reconnect and find my true self that I couldn’t tap into while living in my home country and being surrounded by the same people, same situations that would trigger the same patterns. New Zealand was meant to be that provided me with so much space (mental, emotional and beautiful scenery) so I can meet the most important person in my life – my real self, so I can start my own evolution to a better version of myself. So my personal growth, evolution and journey makes me proud.


9. If you get the opportunity to shout anything to the entire world, would be……



10. What´s Yana´s next big Dream?

Yana : You may say i am a dreamer, but i am not the only one…

I want to live in a bach next to the beach with my dear man, dog (or maybe a few dogs). I want to have kids and give them my love, time and patience. I want to have luxury of time to choose what projects I’d like to work on, to choose how I’d like to spend my day. I want to be financially free, feeling abundance of time, exciting opportunities, love, joy, health and wealth.


Know More About Yana and Her Project here.