Stepan, the Ukrainian cat star of the Internet and a refugee on the Côte d’Azur has 2.5 million subscribers at the counter … Anna, its owner, says

His indifference, his glass of wine, and his disco lights had made him heard on the Internet; the war in Ukraine gave it a much more politicized platform. Stepan, a 13-year-old “old” Ukrainian cat who became an influencer after several videos went viral in late 2020, fled the war to land in Nice, while hoping to return home to Kharkiv. Sheltered on the Côte d’Azur, he was even nominated for the World Influencers and Bloggers Awards ceremony on May 18 and 19 in Cannes. We interviewed Anna, its owner, who has 2.5 million followers between Instagram and TikTok.

“Stepan the Jaded Cat” went viral before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But at the time, few people knew he was from that country. What was your life like before the war? When did you realize Stepan’s viral potential?

Stepan has been known around the world for a year and a half now. It all started with the social network TikTok, when millions of people saw this famous video in which he had his eyes wide open with, in the background, a woman shouting at her dog. It went viral in a very short time, immediately gaining millions of followers.

Six months later, I created my Instagram account for my cat. It was during the last summer that a second wave of popularity emerged, with a video of him sitting next to a similarly disappointed pizza. Initially, it received 5 million views per week and has so far reached 33 million views. A third wave followed when Britney Spears posted a photo of herself.

Stepan, the Ukrainian cat, has arrived in France Photo by @loveyoustepan.

Tell us about your trip from Ukraine to France. What specific event led you to leave your country?

From the first day of the invasion, February 24, we heard an explosion around 5 in the morning while we slept, not quite understanding what was going on. Half an hour later the windows were shaking again. I jumped out of bed and realized that war had just reached our door, in Saltivka [une zone résidentielle au nord-est de Kharkiv, Ndlr]. The first day of the war is when my city suffered the most destruction. The shells hit the nearby houses every day, some ignited. Miraculously, ours was saved for a week. But on the eighth day, a projectile fell on the neighbors’ balcony. Steppan and I spent two nights in the basement, with no electricity. I had to go to the building next door every day to charge my phone.

Then we managed to escape from the city when some volunteers took us to the station. Twenty hours later we were in Lviv [dans l’ouest de l’Ukraine, Ndlr]. From there, we joined the border with Poland, along with 5,000 people. It was when we arrived in Poland that the World Influencers and Bloggers Association (WIBA) offered to help us. Its members helped us to come to France, until we were able to return home.

Even in front of the Baie des Anges, Stepan can’t be fooled. (Repro Instagram).

Are you “sick” here, despite the circumstances?

We really like Nice and everything is fine here, we are sheltered … but it is not at home. I am very concerned about our family who stayed in Ukraine and I do my best to help my country. It’s just a coincidence that we met here: the “World Association of Influencers and Bloggers” is located on the Côte d’Azur, so we’re in Nice.

Do you make a living from Stepan’s face?

Our three most important contracts were with Valentino [Stepan a effectué sa meilleure pose mi-triste mi-critique aux côtés d’un sac iconique de la marque italienne, incrusté de diamants, Ndlr], Crocs and Puma. Last summer, Stepan announced a Rockstud handbag for a campaign that will be released in November 2021. Then videos followed on TikTok, again for them. With Crocs, we had agreed to film an entire ad, but the shoe pack got lost along the way. However, everything ended well.

The figure of the cat Stepan, initially a purely entertaining “meme” (1), has become political due to events in Ukraine. What kind of messages are you trying to convey when you write “posts”?

What Russia is doing is a blatant violation of the march of the world. No one can afford to be silent when the crazy actions of a dictator cause great suffering. Putin only sows desolation and death. This war must end immediately.

This indifferent video of Stepan on his pizza and glass of wine has greatly contributed to his popularity.

How do you help your compatriots get home?

To date, our fundraiser on Instagram for war-torn animals in Ukraine has raised more than $ 10,000.

How is the future of Stepan and yours? Do you want to stay here or return to Ukraine?

We want to return to Ukraine, our home in Kharkiv. It is our home.

Stepan is now a symbol. What does the WIBA ceremony in Cannes, which will also give money to Ukraine, mean to you?

I am very honored to have been nominated and grateful for the opportunity and support of the World Influencers and Bloggers Association. Stepan is now a symbol of Ukrainian resilience.

Stepan’s now legendary indifference. Photo DR.

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