When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Valeria Shashenok, then 20, had to live in a bunker for two weeks. There, she gained worldwide fame by covering the war on TikTok. She filmed the destroyed buildings in her hometown, Chernihiv, using comedy and funky music to grab attention.
“It was so dangerous to take pictures from this location because you never know when a bomb can fall near you,” she said.
Shashenok also used her platform to collect money and eventually raised more than $30,000 to provide clothing and medicines for Ukrainians.
Her fame led her to the European Parliament, where she met with Ursula von der Leyen and Roberta Metsola. Even “traditional” media, like CNN and the BBC, asked her to give interviews in front of a Ukrainian bunker. “I did it because I felt it was so useful to my country, I can tell the truth,” she said.
For Shashenok, the secret to get attention on TikTok fits in five points:
- nice quality of video
- short and simple title: “you have under one second to get attention.”
- trendy sound: “usually I make it with humor because humor is my protection,” she said.
- be confident about what you write or what you say
- never forget about the description and hashtag
A few months after the war started, an Austrian publisher asked Shashenok to write a book about how she experienced the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Titled “Things that just make sense in a bomb shelter,” she published it in June 2022. In her book, she describes how her life changed overnight as soon as Russia started invading Ukraine. “It is horrible when you hear bombs, but you can’t do anything- you’re just a toy”, she said. Part of the money from the purchase of her book is given to a charity organization in her hometown.
Now, Shashenok has found refuge in Italy, in Milan. But as she explained, the horror does not end when you flee abroad. Once she got there, the bombs hit her at the heart of her family.
By Lisa GUILLEMIN, Juliette LAFFONT et Sarah MIANSONI
Translated by Juliette LAFFONT and Sarah MIANSONI