Yelizaveta Smith


Documenting Ukraine Grants

Listening to the World

Iva is an art curator and human rights activist, and at the same time, a person with a disability. Iva can’t hear the world, but she can speak. This affects her interactions with others, especially with her son, Mykyta (15).
When Russia started the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Iva and her son Mykyta were in Kharkiv. Since 24 February, 2022, it has been continuously bombed. It was a rare moment when Iva heard something––the bombing.
After a week of living under bombardment and sitting in a shelter, Iva and Mykyta decide to start their path as refugees to Germany.
Iva’s loved one, Vitaliy, stays in Kharkiv during the war and works at Ukraine's tank factory. Despite huge physical and metaphysical distances, they try to understand each other and hold on to their love. And through this relationship, we are deepening our understanding of the two worlds: the peaceful world of Germany and Berlin, full of people and life; and empty, destroyed Kharkiv in Ukraine—the world of war.
As a refugee, Iva has access to medical research and gets Cochlear implants.
Iva lives in complete silence for a month following the surgery. On 24 August, Ukraine's Day of Independence, the doctor activates Iva’s implants, and she begins to hear sounds again. Iva teaches herself how to hear again and waits for the chance to return to her life in Ukraine.

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Testimony of Times

I, Yelizaveta Smith, film director, along with Viacheslav Tsvietkov as director of photography, started to film the war in Ukraine from the first week. We filmed in the west of Ukraine: in Chernivtsi and Lviv, where we documented the refugees coming from all over Ukraine and the volunteers that are helping them. Refugees lived in theaters. People were covering statues to save them from bombing. Then we filmed in Kyiv and the surrounding region, for example, in Borodianka, which was bombed and pillaged by the Russian army. Subsequently, we filmed for one week in Chernihiv and the Chernihiv region, where we saw the bombed bridges, schools, and houses; volunteers bringing food and medicine to civilians and soldiers; people who cleaned their houses after bombings; and the army camps left behind by Russians, the Ukranian houses that they occupied to use as ad hoc shelters. Stories of people who were helping other civilians and soldiers during the active phase of war in the city. Additionally, we documented the mass graves that were made in Chernihiv: in one week we filmed the burial of around 1,000 people. And afterwards, the relatives coming to the graveyard trying to find their loved ones.

Later we went to the South of Ukraine and filmed Mykolaiv city, which was cut off from the water supply. Volunteers from Odesa brought water to civilians in trucks and cars. In the future, we plan to go to Kharkiv city to document the war and also to return to Mykolaiv, where we agreed with soldiers to film them. Furthermore, we plan to continue filming, because both of us are feeling a strong responsibility as citizens and authors to document the events that are unfolding in Ukraine, our country. Both of us have vast experience in documentary filming including films about war (School#3, This Rain Will Never Stop). Every city now has its own story that we treat as a separate entity; later, after the war, we plan to edit it into a single feature documentary.


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