Filmmaker fights for Ukraine, pushed by recollections of sexual assault

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When Alisa Kovalenko signed as much as battle for Ukraine, she says she was pushed by outrage over Russia’s invasion of her residence, and recollections of the sexual assault she survived throughout battles with Moscow-backed separatists eight years earlier. The 34-year-old movie director is greatest identified for her documentaries, together with her ‘Sister Zo’ and ‘Alisa in Warland’. However days after Russian forces charged in on February 24, she put down her digicam, suspended most work on her newest manufacturing and volunteered to battle on the japanese entrance.

Slight and animated with piercings climbing up her ears, she informed Reuters her story within the Kyiv suburbs the place she has been residing along with her father when she isn’t combating as a soldier close to Kharkiv. (Additionally Learn: Portugal sees spike in overseas tourism, nonetheless beneath pre-pandemic ranges)

She mentioned she was engaged on a movie on the battle in Ukraine’s japanese Donetsk area in 2014 when she was stopped at a separatist checkpoint, taken away for questioning, then sexually abused by a Russian officer in a close-by condo.

Russian authorities didn’t instantly reply to requests for touch upon Kovalenko’s account. However Moscow frequently denied sending officers and troops to the separatists on the time, and has since dismissed all accusations that its forces have dedicated acts of sexual violence, calling them lies and propaganda.

Kovalenko mentioned she was interrogated for hours in 2014 and accused of being a Ukrainian sniper earlier than the officer took her to the flat and compelled her to strip bare in a bath.

She mentioned she remembers crying as he requested her to lie down on a mattress, lay on high of her then tried to rape her earlier than falling asleep. After repeated interrogations, she added, she was freed a number of days later.

“I believe I used to be so afraid, it was like an anima…animal concern. I by no means had (that form of) concern earlier than.

“I promised myself if a struggle…will cowl all Ukraine, then I’ll battle not with my digicam however with a gun.”


Eight years later, when Russia did ship tens of hundreds of troopers over the border in what it known as its “particular navy operation”, Kovalenko’s recollections got here flooding again.

The prospect of combating off a full-blown invasion was daunting. However then she recalled what she had already survived.

“It (the sexual assault) broke me. However on the identical time, I used to be not afraid of something after it,” she mentioned. “After I went to the struggle…I used to be not so afraid about struggle.”

The recollections of the assault fed into a mixture of motivations, mentioned Kovalenko, who was born within the japanese metropolis of Zaporizhia.

“It is one issue that made me take this resolution … one factor in an inventory of things. All of them performed a task in attempting to guard ourselves from these types of issues – not simply defending myself but additionally all folks, my household.”

Since then, she has spent months on the frontline beneath shelling, miles away from her husband and younger son in France.

She has misplaced one shut pal within the combating. “It is utterly insufferable … you turned a household with a few of your comrades since you spend a lot time collectively,” she mentioned.

When they don’t seem to be combating, the troopers discuss movies and music, smoke cigarettes and share jokes and life tales.

Many survivors of sexual violence select to remain silent, mentioned, fearing reprisals from Russia and stigma from their Ukrainian neighbours.

However she appeared in a play about her ordeal earlier than the invasion, and talks freely about it now.

“It isn’t just for me, however it’s for others, and it is usually additionally for Ukraine as a result of we have to discuss crimes, about what Russia did.”

This story has been revealed from a wire company feed with out modifications to the textual content.

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