Ukraine resident, Valeria Shashenok was a freelance photographer keeping herself busy with travel shots, portraits of couples, and the occasional selfie. But that was put on hold once the Russian invasion started. Even though her photography job was put on hold, the 20-year-old still found a way to keep up with her hobby. From documenting the finer parts of life and capturing beautiful moments, Shashenok started to documenting the harsh realities of living in Ukraine during the war.
Shashenok started sharing what life is like in Ukraine at the moment through posting social media videos primarily on TikTok. Her videos include what it is like living in a bomb shelter (with her parents, dog, and two family friends) without any electricity. The young photographer also captures the heartbreaking moment by documenting the rubble inflicted by the Russian military.
In each video she also adds a touch of humour. While in the underground shelter, she shares what is available. In one video she calls the water basin a “jacuzzi for hot girls” and her mom a “personal Michelin restaurant.” One video captioned ‘Heaven’, shows the time the shelter lost electricity. The video features cuts of distressing dark scenes with almost carefree music.
Shashenok began making these TikTok videos to share what is happening in her country. “I’m that person who always ragged on everything with humor. It’s the best way to show people the problem. I’m that person who always sees light in the dark, and it’s a nice way to do something for my country.”
Shashenok took shelter in Ukraine for weeks since the start of the war. However in Shashenok’s latest TikTok, she shows that she has made it out of the country and to Warsaw, Poland. In her usual TikTok style, she documented the long journey which started on a train and ended in her friend’s arms. “It’s the most horrible trip in my life!”
Her hopes with her videos is to shine light in the truth of whats happening and what happened, especially so that people abroad to know the truth and get the right perspective than what might be depicted elsewhere in the media. “They need to know that Ukrainian people are the strongest. I wanted to show that one man, one Russian man, president, stupid man, destroyed my native country. And I am a small girl who can’t stop this man. I wanted to show what really happened. How I see, in my style.”
Watch some of her videos about her life in the war, her city and her life in the bomb shelter her on her TikTok account: https://www.tiktok.com/@valerisssh/video/7072297754285903110?is_from_webapp=1&sender_device=pc
Her TikTok videos include dark humour, such as making a video about “things in our bomb shelter that make sense.” https://www.tiktok.com/@valerisssh/video/7068964080312274181?is_from_webapp=1&sender_device=pc
She even shared their ways of doing things in the bomb shelter, like making coffee without electricity: https://www.tiktok.com/@valerisssh/video/7073777078134525189?is_from_webapp=1&sender_device=pc