Q&A: Anna Varavva, the Hands that Support Ukraine’s Army
Anna Varavva, a freelancer based in Ukraine, worked on a video for MSNBC (below) about the volunteers who support Ukraine’s army.
Storyhunter: How did you come across the story of the volunteer army?
Anna Varavva: The war is the topic on everyone’s mind in the Ukraine. The most amazing thing for me was the fact that everyday people are helping the army the most, by giving them everything they can. From clothes and food to cars, even though the economic situation in the country is very tight. On my Facebook feed, I can see more and more people joining as volunteers. Some of my friends started to collect funds and goods for the army. One of my journalist friends went on the front lines. He asked through Facebook to collect funds for his special shoes that provide protection for when you step on a mine.
SH: Did you have any difficulty shooting this story?
AV: The main difficulty was to find a soldier, because many of them did not want to speak on camera. They were afraid for their families as well. Also there was a rotation when all those who planned to go on the East went already and those who they changed didn’t come back soon. I spent all the days calling to different organizations and looking for a hero. Finally on Sunday when I had planned to go to the celebration of my husband’s birthday, I found one perfect hero. We went to him immediately to make sure we didn’t lose him.
SH: The extra footage in your video is really interesting — how did you manage to get that?
AV: I spent one extra day calling everybody and looking for video. I got the footage thanks to volunteers who shoot it themselves or get footage from the soldiers. Some of the footage was provided to us by the Ministry of Defense. They were not against us using it because they are interested in showing people a more realistic picture of the war.
SH: How has Ukraine rebuilt itself since the outbreaks, and why do you think this story is important to Ukraine today?
AV: It seems like the attacks have intensified recently, so I don’t feel that we have a chance to rebuild the country right now. The main focus nowadays is for Ukraine to hold its ground, and then recapture the occupied territories. This story is important for several reasons. First of all those who watch it can feel compelled to help the Ukrainian army as well by buying clothes, sending money, etc. Also the heroes of this story can inspire everyone to protect one’s truth, even when you don’t have enough material resources.
The characters in the story show us the courage of those who want to live in a free and democratic country. They don’t rely on government or on someone with a lot of money. They rely on their will to be free, they do what it takes to make sure their families and neighbors live in a free country with no Russian intervention.
SH: What was your biggest take away?
AV: Everyone can do something to help those who are on the front line. These volunteers give me hope that good can overcome evil. The winners will be those who don’t lose their human spirit and who help each other.
I spent so much time in preparation and negotiation for this story. I see it was not a waste of time, but an investment.
SH: What stories do you look for as a freelancer?
AV: There are a lot of stories I’d like to work on. Ukraine has very bright people with deep culture and unusual interests. The landscape is also beautiful. So I like to work on stories that are in the mainstream news and that reveal the heart of this country and people. Not only in the Ukraine, but any country or people whose stories need to be told.