How a girl from industrial Donbas went against the flow and became a camerawoman

Alisa Kuznietsova, photo made by the participants of the DocUaDream school. 

War in the Donbas

Translated by: Iryna Lytvynchuk
Edited by: Michael Garrood

Editor’s Note

Art, filmmaking, photographing, and writing is still considered something unusual for the industrial Donbas region, where big enterprises play the role of the main employers. Even though these enterprises are nowadays closing or dying, inertia still does not allow locals to think about alternatives to technical professions. Local teenagers who are greatly aware of the trend tell about a girl from a Donetsk Oblast town who went “against the flow” and decided to become a camerawoman.

Professionals from the world of media and filmmaking have joined forces to share their skills with Donbas youth. As a result, 40 teenagers from Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts created their own materials, including articles, documentary videos, and photos, and made their own sites. Euromaidan Press is sharing some works by the DocUaDream School of Documentary and Media students to show their perspective on the processes within the country.

While the war in Donbas is ongoing, the question of reintegrating the occupied territories in the future remains in the background. However, the process should start from the territories near the frontline controlled by the Ukrainian government. That is why the DocUaDream project is aiming to attract Donbas youth to filmmaking and journalism.

40 participants aged 14 to 17 and selected through the competition were invited to Kyiv. They were divided into two equal groups. Each group spent 14 days in Kyiv. Eight tutors worked with them in the areas of documentary filmmaking, journalism, photography, and video editing. Professional psychologists were also involved throughout the entire project to help the teenagers adapt to the new place and people, and overcome possible traumas as all of them are the children of war.

The educational part of the project foresaw the teams of participants creating their own materials. The main topic of the educational part was A Person in Focus. The organizers provided the characters for the participant’s documentary stories. A number of the characters themselves were the children of war, but a bit older and had already gone to study in Kyiv. However, the particular topics and the focuses of the stories had to be chosen by the participants themselves.

This is the story created by one of five teams at the first session of the DocUaDream school on their own. It is devoted to a Donbas girl who is already studying in Kyiv.

The project is implemented by the New Donbas NGO in partnership with Hromadyny (Citizens) Foundation with the support of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation.

Shoot to Kyiv: how a girl from an industrial region chose a creative profession

Alisa Kuznietsova, photo made by the participants of the DocUaDream school.

Young people from small towns in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions avoid the creative path because they do not see prospects in it. There are mines and factories in these towns, but a lack of cultural initiatives. Therefore, young people more often choose professions that are more in demand in the region.

We talked to a girl who went against the flow. Since childhood, she drew and then applied to study as a cameraman, which is unusual in the region.

The heroine in our interview is Alisa Kuznietsova from Mykolaivka in Donetsk Oblast. From an early age, she was fond of drawing, which led her to art school. However, the girl never finished it. Alisa says that she did not get the desired knowledge there and learned more herself than from three teachers.

“I learned to draw before I wrote. At first, it was a picture with the captions ‘M’- for mom and’ T’- for dad, which later turned into the words Mom and Dad.”

But in 2014 the war started in the city, and it was not the time for painting anymore.

“Our school was bombed, and we stopped contacting each other for a while. Now those memories are erased because you’re trying to forget how you went down to the basement every five minutes.”

How she came to shooting

When the city was liberated, Alisa returned to the creative path. But as a teenager, she faced many temptations. Alisa’s classmates and friends usually spent time at the abandoned Avanhard Stadium. The transition age was different for everyone. Some began to drink, others turned to smoking. Alisa hid from these temptations by remaining in her world of movies and books.

Alisa’s creative path was supported by volunteers when the Yellow Bus initiative (volunteers who teach children to make movies) came to the city.

“My profession was determined by drawing lots. I pulled out a piece of paper with the word ‘operator’.”

Since then, at school, Alisa has participated in a film club, where with the same enterprising boys and girls filmed a video about Mykolaivka.

In 2019, the young woman graduated from school and decided to move to the noisiest city in Ukraine – Kyiv. The drive of the big city had enticed Alisa for a long time, so she followed her passion and became a cinematographer.

“My mother imagined a fragile girl who would carry a heavy camera on her shoulders and did not understand how I could cope with that. But my parents always supported me in any endeavor. So, the choice was made.”

Dormitory, refrigerator, camera

Moving to Kyiv was easy.

“The only thing that was scary was the dormitory. You don’t know who you will live with, what kind of people they are and what their habits are.

After standing in a huge queue in anticipation, going to the 9th floor in a room where 6-8 people lived, I was happy with two things: a dark orange sunset and a refrigerator!

It turned out that first- and third-year students lived in the room. It was difficult to find contact with everyone, but in the end, we came together due to interests.”

The first job in her career

Alisa lived in a dormitory for only a year. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she moved in with her parents and studied online. In the spring of 2021, Alisa returned to Kyiv and found a job. Then finances allowed her to rent an apartment.

Now the girl works in the field of advertising.

“I was told I would work for a week, but I’ve been here for four months, and I really like it.”

It was difficult to combine work with study, but the first money she earned motivated her to try.

Alisa dreamed of a good camera. It seemed impossible to accumulate a large sum quickly, but one day she was holding the camera in her hands and couldn’t believe she could do it. Alisa wants to motivate people by her example. She says that all her childhood hobbies helped her in self-realization in adult age. The girl advises choosing the profession that brings pleasure.

“Work tests your flexibility to the world, one day you shoot about cosmetics, the next about a maternity hospital. It’s an unforgettable experience.”

Video about Alisa made by the team of participants

Team members

Director: Evheniia Chudovska

Cameraman: Illia Hrebeniuk

Director of editing: Serhii Pryz

Sound director: Roman Ustymenko

Translated by Iryna Lytvynchuk

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Translated by: Iryna Lytvynchuk
Edited by: Michael Garrood

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