Since Russia began invading Ukraine, videos of Ukrainians boldly defending their territory against Russian troops have repeatedly gone viral. Most of these videos show an uncommon resilience, especially in the face of a seemingly more powerful opposition force.
As the videos have spread, experts have noted that many Ukrainian citizens – some of whom physically block Russian tanks and clash with soldiers in the streets – live with uncertainty, violence and trauma. Some of these experts have taken to social media to warn against glorifying mental toughness instead of personal safety.
“Highlighting the resilience of Ukrainians is hugely important in boosting morale, but let’s not paint a caricature at the expense of their mental health,” said NBC medical commentator and physician Aditi Nerurkar. wrote on Twitter Last week. “They are in deep and rightful pain right now. This is the start of a long journey.”
The media surrounding the ongoing invasion should be consumed while keeping in mind that many Ukrainian citizens are acting primarily to protect themselves and those around them, Nerurkar says. In that vein, here are four viral moments – some nifty, some uplifting, and some dark – that show what it’s like to live during an ongoing invasion:
1. Ukrainian woman gives sunflower seeds to Russian soldiers – but not out of solidarity
In late February, Russian forces invaded Henychesk, a port city in southern Ukraine. Locals were told troops were there for a training exercise, but a Ukrainian woman armed with sunflower seeds – Ukraine’s national flower – did not buy it.
Instead, she confronted a group of Russian soldiers and told them to put the seeds in their pockets. The reason, according to Ukrainian media on Twitter: “for the flowers to grow when [the Russian soldiers] die on Ukrainian soil.”
This particular video, considered a snapshot of life just before the invasion, has been viewed over 8.6 million times.
2. A young girl sings “Let It Go” from an air raid shelter in Kyiv
In a video originally posted to Facebook last week, a young girl sang “Let It Go” from Disney’s “Frozen” from a Kiev bomb shelter during the Russian invasion. According to the author of the Facebook post, a woman named Marta Smekhova, the girl – named Amelia – started whispering that she dreamed of one day singing in front of the audience on stage.
With her mother’s permission and Smekhova’s encouragement, Amelia began to sing. As the video circled around the small bunker, the other civilians taking shelter fell silent, then clapped as she finished the song. “Even the men couldn’t hold back their tears,” Smekhova wrote on Facebook.
Idina Menzel, who sang the original song for “Frozen,” is among many stars who have since shared the video on social media. The video she retweeted has been shared over 14.2 million times.
“We see you,” Menzel wrote in a tweet on Sunday. “We really, really see you.”
3. A group of Ukrainians help a young Russian soldier call his mother
In a video released last week, a group of Ukrainians helped a Russian soldier, who had probably surrendered, call home. A citizen held the phone and reassured his mother that he was safe, while the young soldier drank hot tea and ate a pastry.
“[A Ukrainian social media] Publish says he burst into tears when he was allowed to video call his mother,” Wall Street Journal reporter Matthew Luxmoore said. wrote on Twitter, about the video. “A lot of these soldiers are just teenagers, with no idea what this war is really for.”
The video appears to align with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s assessment of many Russian troops currently in Ukraine.
“Our soldiers, our border guards, our territorial defense, even simple farmers capture Russian soldiers every day, and they all say the same thing: they don’t know why they are here,” Zelenskyy said in a speech published on Facebook last week, translated by The New York Times. “They are not superpower warriors. They are confused children who have been used.”
4. Ukrainian Librarians Postpone Conference Until They’re “Finished Defeating Our Invaders”
The Ukrainian Library Association was to organize an international scientific conference at the end of February. The event was called off, but not without fiery comments.
“The conference organizing committee has decided to hold the conference after our confident victory and direct the collected contributions to support the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” the organization wrote in a Facebook post in February.
Nicholas Poole, CEO of a UK-based library and information association, had his own viral translation of the ad. “Looking at a message from the Library Association of Ukraine regarding the cancellation of their upcoming conference. It basically says ‘We will reschedule as soon as we are done defeating our invaders,'” Poole wrote in a Tweeter.
The Ukrainian Library Association also urged libraries around the world to tackle misinformation about the invasion as much as possible.
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