“I am a film critic under fire in Ukraine”: a writer’s diary of her experience | Characteristics

There are so many heartbreaking stories from Ukraine, from so many walks of life. So many stories from the film community, as members including Oleg Sentsov return to take up arms against the invading Russian forces.

As the editorial staff and film critics of International Screen, the Ukrainian film critic Natalia Serebryakova participated in the Berlin Film Festival less than a month ago. We went back home; Serebryakova is now sheltering in a bunker in her hometown of Sumy, in the northeast of the country, with her husband, son and cat, besieged and constantly bombarded.

Instead of writing movie reviews, Serebryakova now writes a diary of her experience.

“February 12, just before the screening of the documentary Nick Cave what i know to be true, I read the news that the Americans were again warning of an imminent Russian invasion. It said the invasion would take place on February 16, the day I was due to return home to Sumy from Berlin,” she wrote. “I talked about it with my mother and neither of us could believe that Russia would invade. ‘What?! A real war? Like in WWII? It’s impossible!'”

Eight days later, Serebryakova fled her home, taking only a backpack.

As communities stand side by side, International Screen and our critics support Natalia and her family, friends and colleagues in the media. Here we publish an excerpt from his diary and encourage readers to share it and all other stories like his. The link to his blog is below.

February 24, 2022

“I woke up at half past five in the morning and stayed in bed for a while. Then my husband, who was reading the news on his cell phone, said to me, ‘Get up and get dressed!’ Confused, I asked, ‘What should I wear?’ – ‘What is comfortable,’ he replied. I put on my jeans and a warm sweater; I made coffee. My husband woke up our son. Then we heard someone knocking on the neighbor’s door. My husband came out onto the landing and saw our neighbor, a policeman, dressed in his uniform and carrying a gun. “It’s…it’s…war. Are you staying here or are you going to evacuate? He asked. He was quite anxious, that’s understandable: he has two young children.

We collected our backpacks, which we had packed days before with cookies, water bottles, IDs and warm socks, and left our apartment to go to my mother-in-law’s house. Our cat Marsik meowed in his carrying case home. It was 7am, but the streets were full of people. Many people walked in groups, carrying bags and backpacks. There were queues at ATMs. People were withdrawing money because stores no longer accepted credit cards. The bread quickly disappeared from the shelves.

We arrived at my mother-in-law’s. The television was on and we started watching the Ukraine 24 channel, which was broadcasting the first news of the war. They said that not only Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Melitopol in the east, but also the city of Ivano-Frankivsk in the west of the country were under attack. They said five Russian planes were shot down. I deleted my video chat and subscribed to the local Sumy Telegram channels, which posted up-to-date news and information.

Around 2 p.m., we saw three armored vehicles driving down our street, nestled in the heart of town. At 5 p.m. we learned that Russian tanks were moving along Kharkivskaya Street. My son watched a video from the city webcams on his phone and said, “Look, they’re going past the Sadko fountain and turning towards the station.” Later that evening we heard the news that there was heavy fighting for the local cadet school. At night, the sky in this neighborhood turned red, a church was on fire. This very special disturbing red color that we Ukrainians remember very well from the time of Maidan.

Continue reading Natalia’s blog HERE.

Natalia’s last entry is dated March 1. On March 7, a short-lived evacuation corridor from Sumy opened after 21 people died the night before, including two children. We await an update as events continue to unfold for Natalia and her family.