The war really had started.
On 26 February, a Saturday morning, I woke up. Well, to be honest, my dog Torry woke me up. I saw my mother kept going over to the windows of our ﬂat to see what was happening outside. She said: “Lera, look! There’s a soldier,” and, when I did look, I could see he was really heavily armed. A Ukrainian soldier right in front of our ﬂat and he’s got three or four diﬀerent weapons on him.
People were already out supporting the soldiers, bringing them bread and food. I looked at this soldier and to me it didn’t matter if he was outside our house or not, but my mom was very, very nervous. She said to my father: “We should really drive to the bomb shelter, come on.” But my dad replied (relaxed as ever): “Calm down. Why does it bother you?”
Only half an hour later though, he said: “Lera, get yourself ready, we’re going to the bomb shelter.” I asked: “Why? Why should we go?” I wanted to go back to to sleep, because it was early - for me - about 9am.
Then everything happened really quickly. By 10am we were already in the bomb shelter.
Our shelter had been my dad’s oﬃce in the basement of the building where he ran a restaurant.
He’d renovated it and normally worked there with other employees, so there were computers and it had wiﬁ, toilets and a shower. We’d also taken a ﬁtness machine from our ﬂat when it the basement was turned into our shelter.
In the cellar we were safe from bombs, but it was really boring down there, for my parents and for me. But at least I had internet and to pass the time I ﬂicked through TikTok videos I had saved - ideas for posts I might want to do in the future. And there was a video called ‘Random things in my home that just make sense…’ where people showed weird stuﬀ in their homes. So I started ﬁlming in our home, in our bomb shelter. My parents watched me making those typical funny Italian gestures with my hands while I ﬁlmed, I chose the most Italian music I could - Che La Luna - as the backing track. My father was in a good mood, sitting at his desk in his big chair and started to imitate the hand gestures. It was funny. And my mom? My mom is always up for anything. I said: “Mom, dance a little.” And she did. She grabbed a yellow plastic toolbox and danced around the bunker with it. She's great.
That's how the ﬁrst video from the bunker came about. It was a mixture of boredom, my idea to do something with the TikTok trend, and have a little fun in what was a terrible situation.
People from CNN and BBC saw the video and contacted me, asking to do interviews. My city was being destroyed, but I was able to tell the world about it, and journalists had found me thanks to my TikTok from our bomb shelter.
© Valeria Shashenok 2022-05-19