In what’s being dubbed the world’s first “TikTok war,” Russia’s invasion of Ukraine isn’t only being covered by traditional media organizations but by young Ukrainians armed with their phones, experiencing the war first-hand.
While the United Nations says more than 1.5 million refugees from Ukraine have crossed into neighbouring countries in the past 10 days, some Ukrainians, like 20-year-old Valeria Shashenok, have chosen to stay and bunker up in bomb shelters — and she’s giving millions a glimpse at what life is like in the northern city of Chernihiv on TikTok.
The budding photographer’s video diaries have gone viral as she shares the harsh realities of war with a dash of dark humour.
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In one of her most viewed videos, Shashenok uses a popular TikTok trend where users show cool aspects of their homes while the Italian song “Che La Luna” by Louis Prima plays. However, instead of her home, she shares her “typical day in a bomb shelter.”
The TikTok shows Shashenok, her mom and dad in what looks like a basement with no windows, going about their day cooking, hanging out with their dog.
“My dog can’t understand why we live underground,” the text on the video reads as it shows her scruffy friend.
It then shows her taking a quick trip to gather some belongings at their home above ground. She passes by dilapidated apartment buildings destroyed by shelling from Russian troops.
“Check what [Vladimir] Putin [did] with my city,” text on the TikTok reads.
@valerisssh Living my best life 🥰🥰🥰 Thanks Russia! #ukraine #stopwar #russiastop ♬ Che La Luna – Louis Prima
Another video takes a more solemn approach, showing a close-up of buildings turned to rubble by bombs. According to the text on the video, one of them is a building where her close friend used to live.
“I never cant imagine how people felt in the Second World War…now I’m living in this reality and feel scared of my life. Please, Putin, stop!” reads the text on Shashenok’s TikTok.
@valerisssh Third Word War! Putin, thank u #ukraine #stopwar #russiastop ♬ Je te laisserai des mots – Patrick Watson
She also shares what it looks like in grocery stores in Ukraine during the invasion.
One TikTok shows empty shelves and refrigerators. Instead of freshly baked bread filling the bakery section, there are empty display cases.
“I’m in love of my life! 🥰🥰🥰” her caption reads sarcastically.
@valerisssh I’m in love of my life! 🥰🥰🥰 #ukraine #stopwar ♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys – Kevin MacLeod & Kevin The Monkey
There’s also a video of Shashenok hurrying back to the bomb shelter as an air raid siren sounds in the background.
“Typical day in Ukraine,” text on the TikTok reads.
@valerisssh Run away from Putin! Simple day, simple life😁 Nothing special! #ukraine #stopwar ♬ original sound – Valerisssh
As missile strikes take out historic buildings in the city, including a movie theatre that survived World War II, the 20-year-old hopes that her family’s apartment building stays safe from the attacks.
@valerisssh I spent my childhood here, thanks Russia 😔🇺🇦 #stopwar ♬ ylang ylang – solartunne
I spent my childhood here, thanks Russia 😔🇺🇦 #stopwar
@valerisssh Unbelievable 🥰🥰🥰🥰 #ukraine #stopwar ♬ оригинальный звук – 🤍
While Ukrainians have taken to the social media platform to share their stories, TikTok has taken steps to ban new content from Russia to combat fake news.
You can follow Shashenok on TikTok at @valerisssh.