UMaine student documents war from frontlines of Ukraine

Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 6:55 PM EDT
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ORONO, Maine (WABI) - On the battlefields of war, you’ll typically find guns, tanks, and soldiers.

Earlier this year, one University of Maine student went to the frontlines in Ukraine equipped with just her smartphone.

And now Vita Tomakhiv has a story to tell.

“When war started I was studying and doing my master’s degree in Ukraine,” said Vita Tomakhiv, UMaine student and documentarian. “And it was, in general, a really weird feeling in the first days of the invasion.”

Just a few months after the Russian invasion began, Tomakhiv left her home in Ukraine to continue her education in Orono.

“I was shocked how quiet and calm it is here. It was like a surrealistic world for me,” she said.

Along with feelings of safety came loneliness and guilt.

Vita felt called back to Ukraine, which only intensified as she felt the war slipping from people’s minds.

“This year, like spring, summer, people asked me, ‘Is [the war] still ongoing?’ I was just like, ‘Yes,’” she said.

Earlier this summer, Vita packed her smartphone and spent six weeks near the eastern front.

She set out to tell the story of the war through the eyes of the soldiers fighting it.

“All these people in the documentary, among four people, three of them had civilian occupations before war. And they are just people who, before the war, you could meet in a cafe. I just wanted to show that they are not just some robots who are fighting. They were just usual people who would be your friends, too, and now they changed their lives because of war,” Tomakhiv said.

Though she had no prior filmmaking experience, Vita turned her videos into a documentary showing what these men are fighting for.

“It’s important to hear something from the frontlines. Like, what soldiers actually want to tell them,” she explained.

She encourages each of the other five million Ukrainians who left their country in the wake of the war to use their voices to speak up for freedom.

“If you’re Ukrainian, just use your voice abroad because if all of the five million people use their voice then we will not have questions of, ‘Is this still happening?’” she said.

Vita’s documentary is called “Dimension of war: those who hold the Independence of Ukraine.”

It’s available on YouTube now.