Valeriya Golovina
A letter from Ukraine

Dear WIFT International,

My name is Valeriya Golovina, and I’m a Ukrainian cinematographer and documentary director, who was privileged to work around the world until personal circumstances called me home to Ukraine. 

On February 24th, 2022 I woke up to the sound of shelling and airstrikes. Russia launched its brutal full scale war against Ukraine. My father and I spent two nights in the basement of our apartment while Russian forces were attacking our town in the South-East of Ukraine. We didn’t have water, electricity, mobile connection. When we went outside to look for essentials, I was terrified to see how empty the shops and pharmacies were. Right now, part of our region is under temporary Russian occupation. I am not able to reach Kyiv and reunite with my mother. Russian soldiers don’t let people out nor they allow in humanitarian convoys. 

I don’t know how to express what I’m feeling every day talking to relatives, receiving news, photographs, witnessing horrific crimes Russia is committing every hour. Whenever I go to sleep, all I see in front of my eyes is our cities in flames – Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy. I see the besieged city of Mariupol being completely erased, its residents, those who’re still alive, pleading for help. I see graves next to playgrounds. Crowded train stations. Tears and devastation in my people’s eyes. My mind keeps rereading a note from a kid who is hiding alone in the basement next to his parents’ dead bodies. 

5 weeks since this war has started for the world. For me, this war began in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea and occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. I clearly remember boarding a plane at our regional airport and seeing wounded soldiers being carried  from a military aircraft into the ambulances and the sound of stretches echoing  around the runway.  I knew exactly where they came from. By the end of 2021 the war in the eastern Ukraine killed more than 14,000 people, 1.5 million others were internally displaced, leaving our nation with tremendous trauma and uncertainty. 

My creative work has been on hold because all the time is dedicated to ensuring the safety of my family and to humanitarian efforts. There are also many filmmakers, including women, who’re currently at the frontlines risking their lives to provide us with documentary accounts. There are filmmakers who’ve joined Territorial Defence Units. Others are writing from the bomb and refugee shelters appealing to the world for help and concrete actions. 

I do believe that there is nothing more powerful than an honest human story inviting us to care for one another across borders and continents. The war stories are always sharp and painful. They are concrete names, families, losses. Telling stories has always been my biggest love and inspiration. One of the places where I feel at home, apart from Ukraine, is with the camera in my hands. 

I am deeply grateful to my friends, colleagues, and our allies who have messaged me and offered their help. Please do reach out to a Ukrainian you know – your support means the world to us. I urge everyone working in film to undertake specific actions whether you’re a freelancer, a company or a studio – stand with Ukraine and abstain from any cooperation and participation with Russian cinema. One cannot allow a situation in which an aggressor attacking a democratic state has the right to be funded by international parties, submit their films for participation in international festivals, events, exhibitions without any consequences. 

My heart is with every single person in Ukraine and around the world who is fighting for freedom, independence and democracy. Thank you to WIFT International and my female colleagues for giving me a chance to share my story. 

Feel free to reach out to me at Any effort of support that I can join or provide any information, please let me know. 

My warmest wishes from my beloved Ukraine,