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Children of Donbas tell story of girl who went to war to defend Ukraine

Photo of war veteran Liana Plenokosova made by the participants of the DocUaDream project
Children of Donbas tell story of girl who went to war to defend Ukraine
Translated by: Iryna Lytvynchuk
Edited by: Michael Garrood
This year, the kids who were born in the year of the Euromaidan Revolution and the beginning of the Donbas war went to school for the first time. Those who were teenagers back then are studying in universities, those who were small children are planning for their future, and some of those students who took part in the revolution in 2014 are now building and protecting Ukraine. And now, the time has come for these young people to meet and talk.

This story is written by the teenagers from Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts affected by the war. And the heroine of their work is a girl who took part in the Euromaidan Revolution and then volunteered to defend her country against Russian-proxy troops.

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 have created their own materials, including articles, documentary videos, and photos, and made their own websites. Euromaidan Press is sharing some works by the DocUaDream School of Documentary and Media students to show their perspectives on the processes within the country.

While the war in Donbas continues, 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, with each spending 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 city and people, and overcome possible trauma 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 also war children but a little 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 second session of the DocUaDream school on their own.

The project is being carried out by the New Donbas NGO in partnership with Hromadiany (Citizens) Foundation with the support of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation.

She survived the war to fight on: the story of ATO veteran Liana

This video was made by the participants of the DocUaDream project

Liana took part in the Revolution of Dignity, a veteran of the anti-terrorist operation and a volunteer. She told us about life before and after the Revolution of Dignity and about her desire to change the country.

Liana is 27 years old now. She has been living in Kyiv since she was 14 years old, as there was no place to study in her village. After moving to Kyiv, our heroine graduated twice: in Finance and Credit at the College of the National Aviation University, and Political Science at the Drahomanov National Pedagogical University.

Difficulties began with studying in Kyiv. There was no free dormitory place, except by paying a bribe, which was unacceptable for Liana. She refused, and since there was not enough money for housing, the girl decided to transfer to extramural studies. There too, she was required to pay a bribe, and after refusing to do so she was expelled. This was the first time Liana faced injustice.

She resumed at the university a year later.

When the girl turned 20, the Maidan began. Liana watched the events there with her own eyes.

“It’s not very cool when you’re all right with your friends, and the next moment you see with your own eyes how people are dying. Chaos, boiling, fear, screaming. But despite this, people continued to stand, shouting ‘Glory to Ukraine’ and singing the anthem. That time I worked constantly, and all free time was devoted to the Maidan.”

At the very beginning, the girl did not think about going to war. When the war broke out, Liana was working at the Oschadbank call center in Kyiv. After Euromaidan, they got calls from the Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions. Oschadbank was in fact the only bank where people from those regions could call. It was like a support service: people call with problems about lack of money. Some of them would curse, others complained about life. It was difficult for Liana.

After dealing with it for a year, Liana resigned. This was a result of her close friend from the Maidan returning from the war. The friend had nowhere to live, so Liana sheltered her. The friend told Liana about what happened to her during the war. After this conversation, Liana started thinking about going off to war herself.

Liana joined the Kulchytskyi Battalion, which was formed on the base of the Maidan Self-Defense Battalion. They didn’t want to take Liana because she was a woman, but that didn’t stop her. The heroine was taken during the fourth wave of mobilization. She served for three years, before resigning, as things were calming down.

When Liana is asked why she went to war, she answers that she wants the country to become better and prosper.

“I want people to know about their history and roots. They are constantly trying to destroy our country: language, culture, nation. But those who do not know their past do not have the future. And things like the Maidan and the war will appear again, but in a different form. That’s what unites.”

An understanding of how Liana would like to see Ukraine in the future came to her when she returned from rotations. That time she went to France, and there she saw for the first time that people there live better than we do. Upon arrival, Liana realized that she wanted to live like this in her country.

“We have a quarter of the chernozem of the planet, smart people, the coolest IT specialists in the world. Creativity, art, business, culture… We can do anything we want.”

Liana has always wanted to travel to different countries to bring different experiences to Ukraine.

“I want the war to end, for Ukraine to be a sovereign state, for us to have a strong and capable army. Let there be respect, tolerance. Everything comes from childhood. I want parents to set a good example for their children.”

The girl advises people not to raise children, but to “educate yourself.”

“And most importantly, our freedom begins where the freedom of others ends.”

Liana retold a story she read as a child and still remembers. It was about a little boy who stepped into unsolidified concrete and left his footprints on it. Then he grew up and left. Many years later, when he returned to his hometown, he was asked who he was and what he was doing here. He replied that this town was his home, where he was born, and showed his footprints in the concrete.

And when I ask Liana what her dream is and how she wants to live life, she answers:

“I want to live my life in such a way that not only a footprint remains after me. I would like my life not to be in vain.”

Team members:

Oksana Osadcha, Director

Evheniia Shevchenko, Producer

Serhii Surzhan, Cameraman

Anastasiia Mozghova, Director of Editing

Translated by: Iryna Lytvynchuk
Edited by: Michael Garrood
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