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Campaign #SaveMariupol

Story and photo: Khrystyna Kulakovska

Illustration: #MashaFoya


Journalist and photographer Khrystyna was born in Mariupol and lived there until the age of 15. Then her family moved to Kyiv, but relatives and friends remained in her hometown. Khrystyna managed to take her grandmother out a day before the start of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine—February 23, 2022. Yet, the woman's friend ended up in the blockade, and the connection with her was quickly cut, as well as with other residents of Mariupol. Khrystyna didn’t know for two weeks whether her friend was alive or whether she and her children had food. These weeks of obscurity became the worst for the woman in all the months of the great war. The friend finally called Khrystyna on March 16: they managed to leave the blockade.

Then the journalist decided to make the project Hear the voice of Mariupol together with the Ukraїner media outlet. These are 10 stories of people from Mariupol who share about their life under the blockade and the war crimes of the Russians. For example, Olia, a protagonist of one story, was in the maternity hospital with a newborn baby when the Russians dropped bombs on it. Mariia, another protagonist, is an actress who was hiding in a drama theater with her family. It was the theater where the word Children was written in huge letters nearby, but the occupiers still carried out massive airstrikes against this shelter for hundreds of innocent Mariupol residents.

Khrystyna recorded all the stories together with her team, and then posted them on the Ukraїner website and social networks, not only the text with the story, but also audio recordings — the real voices of the people of Mariupol. Thanks to the translation into English, the stories were spread, in particular, to a foreign audience.

At the end of March, Khrystyna saw an action near the National Theater in Prague: activists laid out the inscription Children with candles in order to draw the attention of the international community to the tragedy in the Drama Theater in Mariupol and the war crimes committed by the Russians. The journalist asked the hosts in Prague whether they wouldn’t mind similar actions in other cities. They agreed, of course. Initially, the idea was to hold the event in Lviv, where Khrystyna evacuated. However, the local authorities believed that this was dangerous and could provoke Russian missile strikes on the city. So it was decided to hold the #SaveMariupol campaign abroad.

Khrystyna was looking for people who can organize #SaveMariupol in other countries through social networks and acquaintances. It was possible to carry out actions in ten cities during April: Tbilisi, Chisinau, Vienna, Brussels, Limassol, Larnaca, Dunedin, Bratislava, Zurich, Kosice, Lisbon and Copenhagen. Khrystyna didn’t leave Lviv, so she helped with the organization online—looking for a photographer, spreading information about the campaign and press releases, helping with advice on designing the inscription Children. For example, what should be the size of the letters or what was better to make it from: to write with chalk, cut out fabric or lay out sheets of paper. Each time, the final result was filmed with a drone, so #SaveMariupol got its own recognizable style.

Thanks to such actions as #SaveMariupol, the hosts constantly remind the world what Russia is capable of and what kind of enemy Ukrainians have to fight right now.


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