Canada

She’s 20 and living in an underground bunker in Ukraine. How she’s using TikTok humour to share the horrible reality of Russia’s invasion

At 20, Valeria Shashenok was just getting her career started as a videographer and photographer, working freelance creating social content for some of Ukraine’s biggest businesses — from restaurants to hotels.

Suddenly her work prospects, and the environment around her, literally turned to rubble with Russia’s invasion.

She never knew that soon she’d be creating social media content around the war.

On Feb. 24, when Putin declared war on Ukraine, Shashenok was in total disbelief. “I didn’t believe war could actually happen. I thought it was a joke.” When missiles hit, she and her family ran into an underground windowless bunker at her dad’s office, just 10 minutes away from their home in the northern city of Chernihiv.

While she didn’t think she’d be there that long, it’s been her shelter for weeks now, and a place where she finds inspiration to document her journey for the rest of the world to see.

Shashenok's mother and their make-shift cooking station in the bunker.

Shashenok has been sharing videos over TikTok from the bunker, a small space she shares with her father, mother, their dog and another family they invited in when their home was destroyed.

When she feels safe she sometimes leaves the bunker a couple of times of week to record the destruction in the neighbourhood and grab clothes from her home, which she says hasn’t been bombed to the ground yet like those of her friends.

Then, she’ll run through the rubble to rush back underground.

“Near my house, buildings are all destroyed. One of the reasons I go outside (even if it’s unsafe) was because I wanted to show people from another country,” she added.

Her videos, which in two weeks have amassed millions of views and hundreds of thousands of followers, attempt to use humour to take her out of a dark situation.

In one video that has hit more than 21 million views, Shashenok “highlights” the destruction around the city to Louis Prima’s hit, “Che Le Luna.”

“Check what Putin did with my city,” she writes, followed by three sarcastic smiley faces as she stands in front of a building near collapse. She also films wholesome family moments in her bunker, including her mom cooking in the bunker and her little dog confused about the entire situation.

In another video, Shashenok takes us into a MTV “Cribs”-style video of the underground bunker, with a “jacuzzi for hot girls” — a tiny water basin — a “personal Michelin restaurant”, which is a video with her mother making Syrniki, Ukranian cheese pancakes, and a small bathroom she captions as “a place for reading books.”

And while she’s amassed a huge following using a new medium and internet language to communicate, Shashenok remains afraid for her and the country’s future. More immediately, it’s making sure they have enough to eat and drink.

“Yesterday I went to the supermarket to find water, but I can’t find water,” she said, adding that she’ll have to check back shortly when it’s safe to go above ground.

Shashenok says the family has mostly been relying on eggs and milk for survival, but often find that both are also sold out at the supermarket. “Last time we had to buy sunflower milk but it’s expensive,” she said.

Just a few days ago, her city of Chernihiv, north of Kyiv, was the target of attacks that led to fires and windows being blown out and a city of 300,000, emptied.

Knowing that this doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon, Shashenok hopes to raise money to travel elsewhere. With her town turning to rubble, she hopes people will be able to donate to her and her family — to set up a fund so she can continue being a creative when the war is over.

“In the future I want to go away from my country to another country. I need money for the future to survive,” she explained

Shashenok's dad and their family dog, all living in a windowless, underground bunker.

While some may wonder how Shashenok can find humour in her situation. She says it keeps her will strong. She shares that in the future, if she talks about being from Ukraine to people from other countries, she doesn’t just want to hear about the pity and sadness.

“Yes, it’s unbelievable what happened in my country. But (humour) is way to show we’re strong. That there’s an end. That Ukraine will survive,” she said.

“We are a very strong country, we protect our country from one of the biggest countries in the world.”

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of Conduct. The Star does not endorse these opinions.




Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button