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Encouraging the Power of Sharing: Amplifying Ukrainians’ Stories

The last 18 months have shown us that nowadays you should check not only the information on the Internet, but even the publications of the worldwide media, as propaganda is becoming less noticeable and more powerful. As part of our YOUR REPOST MATTERS* information campaign, we support the idea that it’s important to seek answers to the issues of Russia's war against Ukraine from the Ukrainians themselves. That’s why we talked to Ukrainian creators who prove through their activities that supporting reliable sources truly makes a difference. Enjoy!

*YOUR REPOST MATTERS in an information campaign created by the independent Ukrainian media WithUkraine with a support from 3MIN Foundation

At what point did you start writing about Ukraine in English?

Maria Kuchapska, founder of Vinok Collective Actually, for several years, this page was an embroidery account where I shared English-language stitching tutorials and patterns, and managed to gain a wide western audience and platform. Naturally, when the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, I knew I needed to use this platform to share what is being done to Ukraine. Surprisingly, many of the people who followed me for embroidery continued to follow, support, share, and donate.

Tetyana Denford, Ukrainian author and translator I grew up in New York: speaking Ukrainian, not knowing English. There, I noticed that it was difficult for Ukrainians to reach the locals, who were only interested in issues covered by English-speaking media. People whom I met mostly used to tell me that I was "Russian", because Ukraine "did not exist" for them at that time. When I started my career as a writer, I began to talk about my Ukrainian heritage and the stories of my grandparents more often. People took it really well! When the full-scale invasion began, I used my passion and anger to work and show what kind of people Ukrainians are and what kind of history and culture we have.

Oleksandr Shyn, co-founder of Ukrainian Voices in Taiwan I started writing about Ukraine in English when I was a teenager because I went to study abroad. Surrounded by foreigners, I had a desire to advertise and promote Ukraine, but with each step of invasion, first in 2014 and then in 2022, the need to promote the voice of the Ukrainian resistance became crucial to me.

Marichka Buchelnikova, co-founder of Ukraine Explainers Together with my partner, Stas Olenchenko, we started to write about Ukraine following the full-scale invasion. The unknown danger made us think about how to use our skills and experience to help. I remember seeing so much misunderstanding of the Ukrainian context in Western media, lots of disappointing takes. That’s how we created Ukraine Explainersarticles and explainer cards on everything Ukraine. Stas is writing, and I’m editing. Together we're brainstorming and distributing.

Julia Kyrylova-Fedorchenko, political and media expert, blogger As a media professional and a specialist in the field of international information, I am more than familiar with the intersection of politics and media. When the full-scale invasion began, I had already lived abroad for many years – but I immediately knew that it would be very important to promptly explain the Russian aggression to foreigners because the Russians were preparing way beforehand, so their propaganda struck immediately. At first try, my activities did not break through as largely as I wanted – that’s when I understood that people abroad really didn’t know much about Ukraine. Even in Europe. But I felt like they were ready to listen and hear us – so I continued. I changed the subject of my content and started talking about Ukrainian culture and clothing in English. Today, I feel like this helps to show that besides all the tragedies caused by the Russian terrorism, Ukraine also has a rich culture and history.

Julia Tymoshenko, marketing manager at SaintJavelin and contributor at Ukraїner I studied in an international university, so I have lots of friends from all over the world. In January 2022, a lot of them started getting concerned about the looming Russian invasion and my safety. One of my close friends reached out by saying that he couldn’t find any quick information on social media about Ukraine or how to help. That made me realise that there is a big gap online when it comes to English-language content made by Ukrainians. That prompted me to create my first carousel on Instagram titled “Tl/dr: What’s happening in (and around) Ukraine” on January 22, 2022. Although I created it just for my international college friends, it went insanely viral, proving that there is a huge need for this type of content.

Valeriia Voshchevska, Ukrainian campaigner and host at UkrainianSpaces I started writing about Ukraine in English right before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Living abroad, I started to feel extremely overwhelmed and anxious about the constant flow of questions I was getting from foreigners who were watching the news and panicking about whether Russia would invade Ukraine or not. This was happening because, as I saw it, there was simply not enough content about Ukraine in English published online, so people resorted to finding information from personal connections. So when Julia Tymoshenko published her first viral post about the situation in Ukraine on her Instagram page, I was also inspired to create content to explain Ukraine to the world in English. As a social media specialist, I knew I had to use all the skills to help my country.

Mariam Naiem, cultural researcher War affects you on many levels, including the feeling of helplessness. Therefore, I needed to understand what I could do in this war and what my role was. I'm not brave enough to go to the front, but what can I do? I am a cultural researcher, so I began to explain the cultural aspects of this war. Also, as a Ukrainian of Afghan origin, I understood that I have the right to explain all the myths related to the “Nazis in Ukraine”, which were created by Russian propaganda and still exist in Western media.

Why is it important to write and share quality content about Ukraine in English?

Maria Kuchapska, founder of Vinok Collective It's crucial to share content in English because Ukrainians are global citizens, and the Russian war against Ukraine is also a global issue. Ukrainians are fighting for and defending universal values: democracy, freedom, and sovereignty. We have no shortage of courage and bravery – but we need weapons. Our survival and victory depend on support from our allies, both on individual and institutional levels. With the full-scale war in its second year, now more than ever, it's crucial to talk in detail about the extent of Russian aggression so that supporters and allies don't become apathetic and desensitised. The war is not over! Mariam Naiem, cultural researcher Russia spent and continues to spend incredible amounts of money on propaganda. This is a consequence of the imperialist past – the voice of an empire is always louder. They have lots of resources to do that. Ukraine does not have similar financial resources, but we have people. That's why it's crucial to share information in English. Even if you don't have an English-speaking audience, if you see important posts from the verified Ukrainian sources, like and share! This increases social media coverage so that more people will see the truth. This is our responsibility. Julia Kyrylova-Fedorchenko, political expert and history enthusiast It’s especially important now when the Russian Federation uses narratives with slogans such as «we are the country of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky – that’s why we could not commit those crimes in Bucha». Unfortunately, this narrative has deeply penetrated many countries of the world, particularly in Europe. And sadly, this also builds some kind of emotional connection to Russia – through over-romanticized literature and ballet, people tend to forget about the crimes committed by Russia. Also, international media outlets publish news about Ukraine with a time delay, and some news may never reach the audience abroad. This, of course, is fairly understandable, because apart from events in Ukraine, foreign media should also cover news from around the world as well as their own local stories. Therefore, it is extremely important for us, Ukrainians, to create news in English, because there is a chance that no one else will do it. Therefore, we should remember: if we do not spread information about events in Ukraine from Ukrainians themselves, it is most likely that the Russians will spread it, but in their own interpretation.

Tetyana Denford, Ukrainian author and translator Now, more than ever, people who have a platform and a creative spirit have a duty to attract the audience so that they hear us, Ukrainians, and learn from us. We need to "connect" people not with crazy ideas and propaganda, but with true stories, hope, creativity and fearlessness. This is our heritage. The creators are the storytellers; we are the future.

Marichka Buchelnikova, co-founder of Ukraine Explainers I would point out four main reasons:

  1. To advocate our interests better and build a stronger bridge between Ukraine and the democratic world.

  2. To help other countries understand Russian imperialism and colonialism so they can fight it, too.

  3. Not to lose international financial and military support of Ukraine.

  4. To fight Russian propaganda and Russian narratives. Very obvious, but the less there is information about Ukraine, the more there’s information about Russia.

Oleksandr Shyn, co-founder of Ukrainian Voices in Taiwan We should be aware that besides the outright haters of Ukraine and paid pro-Russian propagandists, there are also people in-between. These are people who have no connection to Ukraine or Europe. These people may also not solidarise with us because they simply don’t understand the situation. The majority of people in the world are like that. Our task is not only to help them avoid Russian disinformation, but also to inspire them to join Ukrainian resistance, at least emotionally.

Julia Tymoshenko, marketing manager at SaintJavelin and contributor at Ukraїner As the time goes by, foreign media write less about Ukraine. Even if you have only one follower from abroad, you must use your platform to remind the world that Russians are committing genocide in Ukraine, every day. We cannot rely on foreign media and think that they will spread true information without Russian manipulation or lies. If we create and distribute English-language content ourselves, at least we can control the narratives and filter out Russian propaganda, thus balancing the information field.

Valeriia Voshchevska, Ukrainian campaigner and host at UkrainianSpaces Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not just a war of Russian bombs, artillery and missiles. It’s also one of Russia's harmful narratives and disinformation. A few years ago, if you wanted to influence public opinion, a good press release would have been enough. But nowadays the media landscape has changed. Social media has given an unprecedented opportunity for millions of people around the world to make change happen, but it has also allowed bad actors to take advantage of vulnerable audiences for their own selfish goals. Through propaganda, disinformation and lies Putin has tried to convince domestic and external audiences that what Russia is doing in Ukraine is not a fascist genocidal invasion, but a war of “liberation”. Unfortunately, social media has allowed for these fake, manipulative and harmful narratives to spread at a speed we haven’t seen before. That’s why I think that it is the duty of socially-conscious creators to counter narratives created by Russia, and all other authoritarian dictatorships.

What would you like the world to understand about Ukraine and Ukrainians?

Julia Kyrylova-Fedorchenko, political expert and history enthusiast When I communicate with foreigners, I always try to be very clear: Ukraine is not Russia and it’s a war between two worlds – totalitarian and democratic, so it is not about “just some territories”, but about the lives of real people who do not want to live in terror. Also, I would like them to understand that we are talented and – despite everything – positive people. I really want Ukraine to remain in international consciousness as a modern and courageous country. And, most importantly, I want the world to know and remember about the crimes of the Russian Federation against humanity in recent centuries, especially in the 20th century and today. Because until this information becomes common knowledge, the Russians will try to avoid responsibility for all the horrors they have committed. And this is unacceptable.

Julia Tymoshenko, marketing manager at SaintJavelin and contributor at Ukraїner I want foreigners not to disassociate themselves from us and our pain, but to continue to empathise and respond to our appeals. When foreign media reports become the same and they focus only on numbers of casualties or major tragedies, people lose a personal connection to our struggle. Therefore, it is very important that there are English-speaking opinion leaders from Ukraine who, through personal stories, will continue to raise awareness about Ukraine.

Marichka Buchelnikova, co-founder of Ukraine Explainers I keep repeating two things: 1. Ukraine is a subject, not an object. We can make our own decisions, we define our future, and we’re not anyone’s pawns. 2. Democracy and security around the world depend on Ukraine’s victory.

Unfortunately, the world still can’t get it. But we keep working to change it.

Tetyana Denford, Ukrainian author and translator The world must understand that Ukrainians want Ukraine to be free from Russian control, they want to protect democracy at all costs, they are a European country, and they will fight to the death to protect the land that created them.

Mariam Naiem, cultural researcher The less you hear about the war, the worse it becomes for Ukrainians. The reality, daily life, and life of Ukrainians are becoming more complicated daily. Remember, if the media begins to talk less about this topic, it does not mean the situation is improving. This means that it is necessary to read Ukrainian voices that will convey the problem that exists in reality.

Valeriia Voshchevska, Ukrainian campaigner and host at UkrainianSpaces My content and activism is strongly influenced by my country’s ongoing struggle against Russian imperialism and colonialism. That is why I want the world to understand that if you’re against imperialism and colonialism worldwide, you’re against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. To truly understand what is happening in Ukraine right now, it’s important to know the oppressive relationship that Russia has had as an imperial and colonial power in the region with all its ex-colonies. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine must be seen as a continuation of Russia’s obsession with control, oppression and domination of others.

Want to reach out to these Ukrainian creators? Find them on social media:

Mariam Naiem: Instagram and Twitter

Tetyana Denford: Instagram and Twitter

Marichka Buchelnikova: Instagram and Twitter

Maria Kuchapska: Instagram

Julia Kyrylova-Fedorchenko: Instagram

Oleksandr Shyn: Twitter

Valeria Voshchevska: Instagram and Twitter

Julia Tymoshenko: Instagram and Twitter

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