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WU journalists talk: there are also many things that the world can learn from Ukrainians

Sometimes it is hard to believe, but our media is almost 1,5 years. Along this way of formation and growth, many patriotic, hard-working, and creative people joined us. Now, we have a team of 35 people and several departments, who made it possible for WithUkraine to become an independent media with a clear mission and goals. And journalists are the core of everything here.

June 6 is Journalist Day in Ukraine. Thus, we want to introduce you to the WU team members who address foreigners’ questions, Russian propaganda narratives, and what Ukrainians wish to make known about Ukraine abroad.

So, meet WU journalists, and if you feel like supporting their volunteer work, you will find a convenient way by this link.

Mariia Okseniuk, co-founder, journalist at WU


How did you end up at WU?

I created an Instagram page, and later, on the very first days of the full-scale invasion, I clicked on the story when I saw that the followers were growing rapidly. I asked other Ukrainians to help and translate news from the ground to the world. Nobody knew what was happening, we were shocked and confused, but we could still rely on the Ukrainian authorities whose official updates we translated into English operatively 24/7. That's how the best team in the world came together.

Why are you still here?

Because I believe in what we do and see the contribution we make to the digital space (and beyond). Every Ukrainian moves us closer to victory in one way or another, and my role here, as well as at WU in general, is conveying the truth to the world.

What is the most heartbreaking, funny, or defining moment?

Every day at WU can be heartbreaking, funny, or defining. We receive grants, launch a website and projects, analyze events and write materials, translate layers of text, edit dozens of news stories, and design cool things. I remember the moments when I see one of our team members in person for the first time (because we run online media and rarely see each other — different cities, employment, etc.), it's cool to finally hug someone driving such a project side by side.

What topics do you like to write about the most?

About the USSR! Don't get me wrong — I enjoy debunking the USSR myths. My goal is to show people who, to a certain extent, still romanticize the life of the Hammer and Sickle, that, for instance, the Soviet Union was not free housing and food according to GOST (State Standard) but was a "prison of nations.”

What do you want people abroad to know about Ukraine?

That Ukraine is an innovation hub. This applies to many areas: fashion, IT, businesses, and restaurants. Yes, Ukraine is still not a perfect country, but I believe that our generation is changing this. I dream that when Ukraine wins, we will finally announce a campaign on the WU page to invite people to visit us!

Ira Hadetska, co-founder, editor-in-chief, journalist at WU

How did you end up at WU?

I always forget to ask my friend how he found out about WithUkraine, but it was he who pushed me to join the volunteer news translation project instead of being just stressed and chaotic. And I was definitely like this at the beginning of the full-scale Russian aggression. Thus, WU saved my mental state and later became a place where, together with other value-oriented people, we were able to create what we created — an independent media about Ukraine. It is exactly like we see it, and it is so exciting!

Why are you still here?

Because right now, WithUkraine is my main love, my focus, and the place I feel called to be. Nothing is more in line with my ideals than telling the world the truth about our country and developing our project — these are my goals and responsibilities here.

What is the most defining moment?

I have to admit that every crisis we have experienced, especially the internal ones, has been such a defining moment. After each one, we come out with new experiences, better understanding, and the courage to change what needs to be changed to move forward with our plans. These include building a community of supporters of Ukraine, reaching more people abroad, and creating content and projects that our viewers would like to see and that align with what we, as Ukrainians, want the world to know about our country, life, and the current war.

What topics do you like to write about the most?

I love interviews. Talking to people about their lives and passions is inspiring and healing, especially in this time of constant threats, worries, alarming news, and lack of sleep.

What do you want people abroad to know about Ukraine?

We, Ukrainians, are so brave and can handle everything. We are not victims, we fight every day, even when exhausted. However, it is not normal that instead of bringing even more artworks, projects, and startups into this life, we must survive and experience a lot of grief. Moreover, with the war, we learned to live life to the fullest. And we believe in ourselves — this is what I want people abroad to know about Ukraine and Ukrainians.

Anastasiia Sytnikova, co-founder, journalist at WU

How did you end up at WU?

I got involved in the project when I saw a viral post, about a week before the full-scale invasion, which was a mini-explanation of a TikTok trend with "jokes" about how Russia would strike Europe with nuclear weapons "and all because of Ukraine." The page administrator was looking for new people to join the team, and I realized that I had to be a part of it.

Why are you still here?

I am here because I see that our activities have a great impact. It is very important for me that the voice of Ukraine and Ukrainians is spread and relevant, and that people abroad know the truth instead of being under Russian propaganda.

What do you like to write about?

My favorite topics are social and political. Sometimes it is difficult for people from abroad to understand complex but important issues — I like to "translate" them into an understandable language.

What do you want people abroad to know about Ukraine?

I would like people to know that Ukraine is not only about war but, above all, about freedom, originality, creativity, respect, some strange combination of individualism and a sense of community. We are constantly learning from the world, but there are also many things that the world can learn from us.

Anastasiia Klimash, WU Twitter manager, journalist


How did you end up at WU?

The day before the full-scale invasion, I saw on the WU's Instagram that they needed translators and offered my help. And here I am.

What is the most heartbreaking, funny, or defining moment?

I think joining WU was the most notable moment. It’s interesting to look back and wonder how did we get from being a bunch of complete strangers to what we are right now: a dream team.

What topics do you like to write about the most?

Debunking Russian propaganda.

A few weeks before the full-scale Russian invasion, I got more active on social media, monitoring the news in anticipation of what might happen next, and it was overwhelming to see all those suspicious half-empty accounts swarming any Ukraine-related posts from BBC, CNN or other popular media outlets, to spew unfiltered Russian propaganda in the comments. While others, including me, tried to confront them, it was quite draining. Russian trolls can make any ridiculous claim, and there will be people who will believe it. As with any disinformation campaign or conspiracy theory, it takes very little time to make up the lie but to debunk it, you have to really do some research and provide evidence. So obviously, it is all very time-consuming, and it’s helpful when someone already did this homework, and you can use the materials they prepared.

That’s what many of our WU posts do. Is someone still unsure that Russia is committing genocide in Ukraine? Well, there is a post with excerpts from the report listing the articles of the Genocide Convention that Russia violates. Is someone talking about “separatists and civil war in Donbas?” We have a post about how it all started in 2014 or how Donetsk was just a normal Ukrainian city before Russia arrived. By the way, did you know that Beyoncé performed in Donetsk in 2009, and Rihanna was there in 2011? It is something hard to believe looking at the rubble of Donetsk airport, but we should keep reminding people that there were different times there before the Russian invasion.

I especially love when people bookmark our posts and then use them to reply to someone spreading Russian propaganda. It’s nice to see that people find what we do useful.

What do you want people abroad to know about Ukraine?

I want everyone abroad to know that Ukraine must win.

Oleksandra Ivanova, news editor, journalist at WU

How did you end up at WU?

In early March 2022, in one of the hundreds of Telegram chats, I saw that a new English-language media outlet about Ukraine was looking for editors and realized that this was precisely what I could do. After all, during the first months of the war, we were already checking the news feed 24/7, and here was a chance to do it with good use.

Why are you still here?

Because I feel like a part of something very important.

What is the most heartbreaking or defining moment?

The most decisive moment was the first post, which I wrote with Nastia Klimash about the day of the deportation of the Crimean Tatars, and at that moment, I felt that I was starting to engage in a new way and would be able to say even more to the world.


The moment that was morally the most challenging but very revealing was writing a post about the Holodomor genocide in Ukraine. We wrote it in November, during the most extensive blackouts. On November 23, there was no electricity for more than a day, and when it was turned on at 2 a.m., together with my boyfriend we first went to cook some warm food and then opened the Internet and started choosing photos for the post. This moment was the quintessence of what we were fighting for. After all, we were writing a post about how the Russians eradicated Ukrainians a century ago, and we were writing it at a time when, a century later, the Russians are trying to kill us again.


What do you like to write about?

I like to write about the history and culture of Ukraine to show that our country has existed for more than a millennium, and not for 30 years, as is commonly believed, thanks to Russian propaganda.


What do you want people abroad to know about Ukraine?

It is already well known abroad that Ukraine is not Russia, and now I would like us to delve deeper into what Ukraine is and what it is like. Tell the world about our history, culture, events, and achievements. About Ukrainian people who are changing the world, for example, about startups that are used by millions worldwide and were created by Ukrainians.


Olha Dudenko, news editor, journalist at WU


How did you end up at WU?

On a friend's Facebook page, I saw an announcement about a search for volunteers for WithUkraine. It was exactly the right time when you wanted to be as useful as possible for your country. Since my job and degree were related to media, I applied for the editor position at WithUkraine.


Why are you still here?

It is an opportunity to convey important messages about Ukraine to foreign communities and, at the same time, do something I love. Everything our team is accomplishing now is a long-term investment. We are doing our best to popularize Ukrainian culture and society to create a positive image of our country. It's like diplomacy but more fun. Besides, I love talking to foreigners about Ukraine while doing it with a team of passionate and motivated people.


What is the most heartbreaking or defining moment?

The most touching moment was when we created a post about places where foreigners can watch Ukrainian films abroad. After that, people from different countries began to write the names of their cities in the comments and ask if there was an opportunity to watch Ukrainian movies there. This shows the demand for and interest in Ukrainian culture and made me personally so happy.


What topics do you like to write about the most?

I mostly write texts about culture and art. These areas inspire me a lot, and this is actually my main specialization. It is always about having a variety: one day, you can write about exhibitions and cinema, and the next day about architecture or photography. There is always room for reflection on the profession in culture and art.


What do you want people abroad to know about Ukraine?

I want everyone to know about the diversity of our culture: it has always been rich and innovative. I also want foreigners to know about Ukrainian paintings, cuisine, and music Russia stole. Finally, it is essential to have a dialog about Russian propaganda to understand how it affects the world and how to fight it.


Olena Pozniakova, SMM-manager, journalist at WU

How did you end up at WU?

In early April 2022, a close friend of mine, Ira, wrote to me that she had joined an initiative to support our country on the informational front and invited me to join. I remember that it was my work at WithUkraine that helped me not to go crazy from the horror of war. Realizing how important our contribution was saved me and gave me a footing.


Why are you still here?

Two important things have come together at WithUkraine — my dream job and my love for Ukraine. This is my place, and I feel that my work and my contribution are essential.


What is the most heartbreaking or defining moment?

At the beginning of our work, we at WithUkraine worked 24/7 to tell the world about current news non-stop. All team members worked from different parts of the world. Most of us had never met each other. During one of the night shifts and another attack on Kyiv, one of the girls, Nastia, whom I knew only as a name on the news shift roster, asked in the work chat instead of the usual "Hi, let's start the shift" — "Are you OK? What’s your state of mind? Is there anything I can do to help?" It was then that I realized that we would defeat the Russians in the war. Because no matter where we are, we are united and always ready to help each other.

What do you like to write about?

Analytics and up-to-date information from the frontline. I especially like that we try to cover complex topics in a way that is easy to percept.


What do you want people abroad to know about Ukraine?

Ukraine is an independent democratic country whose people have not lost their national identity during the years of Russian imperialist and Soviet occupation. It is a country of loyal, sincere, and strong people who know how to live. It is true, and it is what we are proud of. And above everything, I want the world to see that we tend to share love, innovative ideas, and arts.



Mariia Mytsai, journalist at WU


How did you end up at WU?

I am thrilled that WithUkraine gave me the opportunity to do a journalism internship. WU has become a place of my professional development.


Why are you still here?

Now that I am temporarily abroad, I clearly understand how important it is to continue writing about the events in our country and delivering the right messages. That's why I decided to continue being part of this cool journalistic team.


What is the most defining moment?

Writing the first long read for the WU website, the article “Why does almost every Ukrainian have relatives in Russia?” It took us about three weeks, as together with experts in history and editor-in-chief we were checking all historical facts in detail, trying to explain everything in a clear and accessible way. I am very proud of the result and the fact that our site is developing. I’m sure, this is a huge step forward for WU.


What topics do you like to write about the most?

Most of all, I like to write materials on cultural and historical topics.


What do you want people abroad to know about Ukraine?

I want to continue to convey to foreigners that the war is ongoing, but at the same time, life is going on, and moreover, it is a chance to open the world that Ukraine is a modern, developed, and progressive country.


Kseniia Tabaka, translator, journalist at WU


How did you end up at WU?

A few days before the full-scale invasion, I came across Masha's (Mariia Okseniuk) Instagram page, and on the first day of the war, I saw a post there inviting people to join in spreading the truth from the ground. I seemed to fit, so I immediately responded to the post and was added to the telegram channel. I started by translating the news, which helped me greatly because I felt the importance of the cause.


Why are you still here?

To my great regret, the war is still ongoing, so now it is my direct duty. And it turned out that the WU team is fantastic! I'm very happy to have found like-minded people and plan to devote more time to the project telling the world about Ukraine.



What is the most heartbreaking or defining moment?

The most decisive one was when I first met part of the team in Kyiv. It was like a breath of fresh air! I already knew they were awesome, but after the meetup, I was just blown away. Incredibly cool and inspiring people here, at WU.


What do you want people abroad to know about Ukraine?

I want more and more people to know how amazing and unique Ukraine is, and how talented our people are. Unbreakable people! But for now, the first and most important thing is not to forget about the war because support is critical. And now it's painful to see the world becoming "apolitical" again because the terrible reality in Ukraine has become something mundane for the world.


Tetyana Radionenko, PR-manager, journalist at WU

How did you end up at WU?

It was March of 2022, and I was chatting with my friend Dima (Dima, if you read this — thank you!), who was a part of the WU team then. He asked me if I wanted to volunteer for the project. I quit my job just before the full-scale invasion began, and of course, I had time and the urge to help my country in a way I could. In short, that’s how my story with WU began.


Why are you still here?

For me, WU was like a lifeboat that took me on board, and together we sailed in the right direction. YO HO HO :) This project appeared in my life just at the right time. At a time when I felt anxiety, stress, disappointment and fear for the lives of my relatives and friends. Also, I felt angry and guilty that I had not done enough to help Ukraine during the war. I still can’t say I’m doing enough, but at least I’m doing something, and it helps to maintain my mental health. So, I can say that WU is like a CBD for me. I’m still here because I love this project and people I work with.


What is the most heartbreaking or defining moment?

I was so exited to meet some of our team in Kyiv last winter. Finally, I saw people in person, whom I saw mostly as avatars on the Google spreadsheet. I also remember a discussion within the team about whether to write “russian” with a capital letter in communication or not. This is probably the only decision of the WU team that I strongly disagree with)

What do you like to write about?

I write about Ukrainian companies and the awesome projects that they launch and develop. It's very pleasing to see comments like "omg, I didn't know that this is a Ukrainian company" under the posts. As a PR manager, I understand how crucial media support is for a business and how hard it can be to gain mention in publications.

I also like to write about various events taking place in Kyiv. Because I visit them and can convey their atmosphere to show people abroad that we continue to live and, yes, sometimes have fun even during the war. Maybe it will inspire someone to visit Kyiv when it will be safer here.

Recently, at WU, I joined processes related to its PR and communications, and I feel like we will reach all our project's goals as long as the Ukrainian Armed Forces protect us.

What do you want people abroad to know about Ukraine?

I would like never to hear again that Ukraine is a part of russia, as this has happened to me abroad so many times. I want people worldwide to know the truth and the international media to call a full-scale Russian invasion correctly, not a “conflict” or a “crisis.” I want everyone to know about our beautiful Ukrainian culture, talented people, and fantastic companies. I also want the world to know about our titans in the Armed Forces, who have been repelling the enemy for a long time and will do it as long as needed. Thanks to them, I can write this text and live my life.

We indeed can live our lives, write our materials and reach our dreams thanks to the Ukrainian defenders, volunteers, activists, and Ukraine’s supporters worldwide. So, our journalist and other team members thank you for caring for Ukraine. It is valuable and does matter!

With love, WU team

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Oleg Koltsov
Oleg Koltsov
Jun 08, 2023

😍😍😍

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