One year on from Russia’s full scale attack on Ukraine, two young women share their stories of the impact that the war is having on the hardest to reach.
NEW YORK, NY, February 23, 2023 /24-7PressRelease/ — One year on from Russia’s full scale attack on Ukraine, two young women share their stories of the impact that the war is having on people whose lives have been torn apart and how distributing cash to those in the greatest and most urgent need, provides connection and hope.
When the full-scale Russian invasion began in February last year Dr. Kristen Ali Eglinton, Footage Foundation’s co-founder and director, contacted 25 year old Alyona and 32 year old Iryna, two young women who had participated in a Girl-talk-Girl workshop for young women leaders in Kyiv in 2017. Kristen asked them to help deliver a new Compassionate Cash program on behalf of the feminist humanitarian non-governmental organization she’d co-founded in 2008. She wanted to support those hardest to reach, unable to leave Ukraine, and most at risk of gender-based violence.
“I immediately wanted to help,” says Alyona. “In my heart, I knew that I must support with words and with money.”
Alyona, who grew up in the now Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia District, had been working as a TV journalist in Kyiv when the Russians invaded. She lost her job almost immediately.
Iryna, an actress and second-time around student, found herself without work and uncertain about how she would be able to continue with her studies.
The early days at the start of the conflict were chaotic and frightening. Those who could flee were either internally displaced within Ukraine or fled to surrounding European countries. Many, the sick and the elderly, and women caring for relatives or young children, were unable to escape.
Alyona quickly began looking out for people who most needed help and security. She found women who had lost their jobs and their homes, who were struggling to look after children and elderly relatives and desperately needed somewhere safe to live.
Her pages of photographs and notes of women who have been supported by Footage’s Compassionate Cash program bring home the raw reality of war beyond bombs and missiles.
The stories starkly tell the tales of women supporting families while unemployed, isolated and alone. Many are grieving, have lost their homes and are caring for injured children or the elderly. Some are elderly with no resources and no one to care for them.
“Woman from Bucha. Her daughter died. Russian soldiers raped her and then killed.”
“Young woman from Kramatorsk. She was on the railway station when the bomb got there. She lost her leg.”
“Woman from Donetsk department. We met her on the train. She was wearing a dressing gown. She told that last time slept in a pit to protect herself from shelling. She was going to her elderly mum. So we helped this woman and her mum. (2 people).”
“Maryna. She was an actress when the war started. Lost her job. Has 7 little brothers. sisters and mother. (9 people).”
“Elderly man (84 years old) from occupied zone. He needed medicines. So in May we bought it and transferred them through volunteers.”
“Woman from Mauritius. She get married on Ukrainian man. She was saving money for her surgery but when the full scale war have started she decided to sent this money to people from Ukraine. Unfortunately she died but she was really brave woman with warm heart.”
“Little girl from Odessa Department. А missile hit in her house and she lost her leg.”
Through the Compassionate Cash program with funds donated by generous supporters of Footage, they sent thousands of US dollars.
Alyona arranged for funds to be sent to a village in eastern Ukraine after learning that elderly residents were unable to access their pensions or any finances.
“They didn’t have digital access and the postal system had collapsed because of the war and Russian occupation,” says Alyona.
“People from occupied zone. Some elderly people didn’t have opportunity to get pension…There were 19 families and approximately 38 people,” says her record from April 2022.
“Elderly people and large family from Kharkiv. Approximately 30 people,” says another note.
Iryna, whose family remain in the Donetsk region, fled Kyiv to continue her studies in France. She’s torn about whether to return to Kyiv and her friends or focus on her studies. “I am so happy to have this support,” she says with mixed emotions – sadness, relief, some guilt. She finds solace in reading the messages of compassion and support provided by another Footage Foundation program, FemSMS. The program sends information and supportive messages to women across Ukraine to provide connection and understanding. “The messages make me feel that I am not alone,” she says.
Alyona is now working on a documentary about five ordinary women doing extraordinary things. Her film will help to raise funds for Footage to continue its work to support women and those most at risk of gender-based violence in Ukraine.
“War is the scariest word,” she says. “We are learning how to live with a terrifying situation. I won’t leave because I want to live this period of time with my family and my friends. I want to feel these emotions. If I move I will not learn some very important things.
“I have met with new heroes. Not stars. Not celebrities but fireworkers, doctors, soldiers. They help us to stay safe. My short film is not only about war. It’s about women. Love. Courage.”
Both Alyona and Iryna hope for a peaceful, united Ukraine. “As long as Ukraine is divided I can’t feel whole,” says Alyona. “It’s all of our pain.”
“We don’t know when the war will end. But now it’s getting harder to find the money that we need to continue to do the work,” she says. “I believe that we are the instruments of God and that God helps me. When you do something good, you help the whole world. We need to stop doing wrong. We need to start thinking about each other. We need to be human.”
About Footage Foundation: Footage is a U.S. based feminist organization raising voices to elevate lives through creative research, wellbeing interventions, and advocacy—all advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Footage has received nine Public Diplomacy awards from the U.S. Department of State to design and implement programs focusing on women and violence primarily in the Post-Soviet region. A nonprofit organization founded by PhD colleagues at Cambridge University, Footage uses narrative and expressive approaches empowering young women around the world to connect as agents of social change. Our programs provide connection — a community for women on the frontlines of gender inequality where their ideas matter and their voices count. We have a particular focus on forced displacement and gender-based violence and believe compassion and connection are as important to sustainable development as food and water.
Girl-talk-Girl connects young women worldwide, using mobile digital storytelling (2-5 minute multimedia narratives produced on mobile phones) to spark dialogue and change around the gender-based violence present in their lives.
To learn more about how you can donate, or join Footage in solidarity and advocacy, and help to raise the voices of those at risk from gender-based violence (GBV) and displacement visit footageproject.org and follow Footage on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Media Contact: Jenny Caven
Email: [email protected]
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