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In Ukraine, life can change in a minute

'We want peace', the One Minutes Jr. video produced by Angelina Datsenko, 13, at a UNICEF-supported workshop for displaced children in Kharkiv, Ukraine, July 2015.


By Chris Schuepp

The One Minutes Jr., a video workshop series held around the world, recently gathered young people in Ukraine who have been displaced by conflict. Their stories shed light on the trauma children have experienced – and the hope they still hold onto.

KHARKIV, Ukraine, 19 August 2015 – Children are playing in the backyard of Dmytriivska Street 29 in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. They look like local children trying to pick the first apples of the season from the big tree near the house, which hosts a Community Protection Centre run by the NGO Ukrainian Frontiers, supported by UNICEF.

But Alina, Julia, Dima and Vanya are not locals – they have been displaced with their families from their former homes as a consequence of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Over the past year, more than 1.4 million people have registered as internally displaced in Ukraine, and the number continues to rise.

The 20 children who have come here to participate in a video workshop all left their villages and cities in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and have found new homes in Kharkiv.

New skills

The One Minutes Jr. is a participatory story-telling initiative in which children and young people learn how to develop, film and edit their stories into 60-second films. No prior technical skills are needed – the 5-day workshop is a crash course that teaches everything children need to know to make their first films.

'Put out the flame of war', produced by 11-year-old Luhansk


David, from Luhansk, is 11 years old. When we talk to him after the initial introduction to film techniques and camera work, he has a lot of questions. “Why do children lose their parents? Why do parents lose their children? Why do we have to leave our houses? Why are our villages being set on fire?”

All these questions deserve to be answered, but there are no answers in sight for David and the other children who are haunted by the same question marks in their heads.

David goes a step further and asks us: “Why would anybody start a war in the first place anyway?”

Getting creative 

The individual brainstorming sessions with trainers and participants are an essential part of every One Minutes Jr. workshop. It is here that the film ideas roaming around the children’s heads are voiced for the first time, where they are shaped into stories and scenarios, and where the creative process starts.

On day two of the workshop, David starts sketching, and then he cuts out figures from coloured cardboard paper: men, women and children, as well as cars and houses. The actors and objects of the questions from his brainstorming are taking shape, and he writes a text to accompany the images.

Then on day three, during the filming, they all go up in flames.

'We want peace'

Arina’s family fled the violent conflict in Donetsk and ended up in Sviatohirsk. But the line of combat has moved since then, and currently the city of Sviatohirsk is only a few kilometres away. Twelve-year-old Arina does not know how long she will be able to stay there or whether she will have to find a new home again. Arina’s film idea comes with a message to the rest of the world: “We want peace.”

Together with four other children from the workshop, Arina and the trainers visit the remains of a building on Dmytriivska Street that was never finished – and that now looks like buildings in Donetsk and Luhansk that have been destroyed in the fighting.

Arina and her new friends collect bricks and stones from in and around the house, and at the end of the film we find out what they need them for. They have assembled the bricks to spell out a three-letter word in their local language: МИР – 'peace'.



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