Lyubov Rakovytsia - “A great field for manipulation”

Exposing the Invisible talks to journalist Lyubov Rakovytsia about the heavy toll of reporting from and about the war in Ukraine while dealing with the intensifying mental pressure caused by the lack of safety, of time and of certainty about what the future will bring. This interview was conducted in June 2022.

About the Interviewee

Lyubov Rakovitsa studied at Mariupol State University in Ukraine. In 2021, she became head of the non-governmental organisation Donetsk Institute of Information, where she is responsible for general management of the organization, strategic planning, and supervision of project implementation. At theInstitute, she has also served as a project manager and fundraiser. Lyubov has also been a speaker for the Donbas Media Forum, the Forum on Constructive Journalism and the Online School for Independent Media.

Interview Transcript

Exposing the Invisible in conversation with Lyubov Rakovytsia from the Donetsk Institute of Information (DIOI) in Ukraine

(Note: the transcript includes minor edits for clarity reasons.)

Lyubov Rakovytsia (LR):

My name is Lyubov Rakovytsia. I work as a CEO in the Ukrainian organisation Donetsk Institute of Information. We've launched several projects, amongst them: the website Donbas News and the TV channel Donbas News. And we also conduct annual events for media representatives – that is the Donbas Media Forum – for those journalists who left Donbas, who covered this issue and who worked on the topic of conflict in the East of Ukraine resolutions.

  • Exposing the Invisible (ETI): Why is this journalistic work important to you?


For me, you know, I was born in Mariupol, and my parents stayed there, and my sister stayed there during the beginning of this full scale invasion. And there was no connection there, no internet connection. There was no heating, electricity and gas. And every day my dad came to one of these mobile satellites. It took him to go maybe up to 30 minutes under the shelling, surrounded by these Russian troops. But my father is a pro Ukrainian person.

And he phoned me and my brother, and he asked us three questions. First of all, first question was: “What has happened in Mariupol?” Because they didn't have any information about it. Second question was” “What has happened in Ukraine?” And third question: “What has happened in world?”  So I understood that when people are in the vacuum, they don't have any information on what has happened around them, what has happened in the city where they are.

And this is a great field for manipulation. And I know that very often Russian troops, Russian militaries, they moved people, departured people from Mariupol to Russia because they said that it is dangerous to stay in Ukraine, that it is more safe to stay in Mariupol maybe than to go to Lvyv, or something like it. So that is why I think it is very important not to leave people in occupied territories without information. We need to work with them. We need to try to get them and we need to try to pull them out from this very dangerous condition to Ukrainian territory.

And so when my dad asked me about what has happened in in the world, day by day, I told him that almost all the people in the world knew what is Mariupol, because everybody knew what is this name. And every people in Ukraine really knew what is in Mariupol. And it was important for them to understand, and it was important for them to understand they are not alone, and to feel the unity of the whole world for solving this problem of what is happening, what now we have in a Ukraine.

  • ETI: How do you now collect and verify information from occupied territories?


We use Telegram (the app) to collect videos from occupied territories. And on the other hand, we need to verify it because we faced some problem, when different videos were fake. It was fake or it was shot many years ago. It was video, for example, about shooting of Bayraktars (the drones). And we had a problem with YouTube because of it. On the other hand, we have some relatives, some close people, we asked them to make some videos. But security issues, it is very important now for them, because Russia don't want to share any information and don't want to give this information spread in the whole world – this information of what is really happening there – because they produce a lot of propaganda information. But of course, because of the security issues, I can't give you these details. But we have experience since 2014 how to work with them.

  • ETI: How are you feeling after nearly 6 months of covering this invasion? (NOTE: the interview took place in June 2022, the invasion started in February 2022)


At the present moment I feel tired, on the one hand. On the other hand, I feel really safe because now I don't expect hearing sirens here because it is not. I don't expect that the next moment, one rocket flies here and destroys the building. As it can happen in Ukraine. And last weekend, it was one more shelling of Kiev. And I live not far from this place. So I woke up because of all this, because of this explosion. And it was… it was scary. And then being here in Berlin, I feel really safe.

But on the other hand, speaking with you, I understand that our conversation took some time, and maybe something happened during this time. I need to go to my phone and check everything. Maybe something happened, maybe one more locality was shelled. I need to keep it in my mind, and I need to do everything knowing it.

  • ETI: What are you able to do to protect your mental health during this conflict?


To stay well and to protect our mental health is also very important now, because this war consumes a lot of mental resources. And I know that there are a lot of programs of international organizations. For example, last month, I went to Prague for one workshop and I felt that I managed to shift my attention, to relax and we started different techniques for psychology or mental health. There are also possibilities for Ukrainian female journalists –  first of all for females because male are not able to go out because it is wartime. Our journalists, female journalists, they are able to go for a week or for more time to other regions, to other countries just to shift, just to stay, just to live in a safe environment and not to think about all these issues.

Of course, now it’s a great problem because since the USSR (The Soviet Union), this therapy was stigmatised. Ukrainian men are not crying – as people say – not only Ukrainian but I think all of the world they say that boys are not crying. And so they don't cry and they don't want to work with therapy, because they think that they can deal with it by themselves. One of my colleague from Mariupol, I asked her if she worked with therapy. She answered me: “No I'm not because you know, the therapist has a lot of her own problems. I don't want to share my own problem with her because, because she because she's also exhausted of it.” So it is also a great problem for it. But now it is more easy than it was in the beginning of this full scale invasion because different politics, Western politics they said that Kiev will be captured in 72 hours, 26 hours... And we thought that we we don't have any time for relaxing, we don't have any time for sleeping because we are not able to postpone our work for next week or next month. Because in the next month maybe Ukraine will not exist as it is now. So we're used to work in this very intensifying condition. And I hope that our war will finish very soon, and we will have some time for relax, and then to continue our work for developing the Ukrainian country.

Credits and Licensing

CC BY-SA 4.0

This content is produced by Tactical Tech's Exposing the Invisible project, and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license

  • Speaker: Lyubov Rakovytsia

  • Video production: Laurence Ivil

  • Editorial support and coordination: Wael Eskandar, Lieke Ploeger, Laura Ranca

  • Animation and graphic design: Yiorgos Bagakis, Paulina Rams, Jack Wolf

  • Music: “Chill Abstract (Intention)" by Coma Media

This video series is part of the Collaborative and Investigative Journalism Initiative (CIJI) project co-funded by the European Commission under the Pilot Project: "Supporting investigative journalism and media freedom in the EU" (DG CONNECT), September 2021 - August 2022

The content reflects the speaker’s views and the Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

First published on October 6, 2022