Valeriia Shahenok: "I face my war also with TikTok"

Her videos shot in the rubble of Ukraine went viral, millions of people followed her as she found refuge in Italy and many mourned with her over the death of their cousin in the fighting. Grazia met Valerisssh, the aspiring photographer who on social media has invented a new way to oppose the Russian invasion

Valeriia Shahenok , 20, fled Chernihiv , Ukraine, as Russian army bombs razed her city to the ground.

On social media he told with photos and videos how the war had changed his life in a few hours. She chose to do it with a surreal irony, showing how she spent her days in the bunker made welcoming by her parents, along with the dangerous walks among the rubble of destroyed houses, schools and hospitals.

She is also the spokesperson for a humanitarian organization called Palyanytsia (Ukrainian for "loaf"), which raises funds for city dwellers who need everything to survive. Now that she is the guest of a Milanese family, she continues to tell the story of the war thanks to the videos and photos sent to her by her parents and friends who remained in Ukraine. And she does it with a startling look, hovering between denunciation and mockery for the senseless devastation. It is no coincidence that Valeria has tattooed the word “balance” on her left arm.

You have told the war on social channels, such as TikTok and Instagram, using a lot of irony. What prompted you to do it this way?
"I have been using social networks for a long time, they are the most powerful way to tell what is happening. I chose to do it even during the war, with a sense of humor that we have always had in the family. My parents have a beautiful character, we laugh a lot when we are together and above all they never cry and don't like to complain. With their way of dealing with life they have taught me that irony is a tool for solving problems. Having a phone that allows me to shoot videos and take photos to show how I see things and what I feel did the rest. War is not a fairy tale, it is not a movie. Real life is what I tell. It's painful and psychologically complicated, but you need to be mentally strong and if you really want to do something for others you have to focus on yourself. "

I face my war even with Tik Tok (4)
You are also the spokesperson for a humanitarian organization, Palyanytsia.
«With my stories I want to be faithful to reality, but at the same time I want to trigger a strong reaction in the viewer. Now it is a mission for me to help the Palyanytsia association which, thanks to my stories, receives donations to buy food, water, medicine, clothes and everything needed to live and defend ourselves in Chernihiv. A few days ago the bombs also destroyed the two fundamental bridges for supplies, everything is transported across the river that crosses the city, which complicates things even more ».

What was your life like before the war?
«I am a photographer and until a few weeks ago I lived in Kiev. I loved it. I did photo shoots for various brands, but I also worked on more personal research. I love to portray young women who have something special and who attract me, because through them I can tell my way of seeing reality and people. I have many friends and I was leading a simple life like that of any 20-year-old in Italy. I shot during the day and in the evening I saw friends in the many clubs that are in the city. I love the exchange of ideas which is a very strong engine for my work and with the Palyanytsia association doing things as a team has become even more important ».


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