at war

The Culture Fights Back project to share stories of artists and civil society representatives who have joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

In this section, you can find out more about how Ukrainian directors, actors, editors, and film producers protect their country in its most difficult time.

Alisa Kovalenko

Alisa Kovalenko is a Ukrainian documentary film director and member of the European Film Academy, who joined the Ukrainian Volunteer Army to defend her country in light of Russia’s armed aggression. 

When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, Alisa went to the hottest spots in Donetsk region to film Alisa in Warland. Working under artillery fire, at times she was just several hundred meters from Russian positions. Alisa visited Donetsk airport, together with its ‘cyborg’ defenders, during the fierce battles of 2014 and 2015. In 2014 she was held in captivity by illegal, Russia-backed formations near Kramatorsk; she remembers the numerous interrogations and gender-based acts of violence as the most traumatic experiences of her life.

Alisa in Warland premiered at the IDFA International Documentary Film Festival in the Netherlands, winning best documentary awards at international film festivals, such as FIDADOC in Agadir, DocsMX Mexico in Mexico City, and Festival de cinéma et de Droits de l’homme de Paris & Barcelone in Paris. Her film Home Games (2018), which received numerous international best documentary awards, is now available on Netflix. In February 2023, Alisa’s documentary We Will Not Fade Away premiered at Berlin International Film Festival Berlinale. 

After the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Alisa joined the 5th Separate Battalion of the Ukrainian Volunteer Army in the 2nd Assault Force’s Black Floats

“I promised myself if a war were to ever cover all of Ukraine, then I will fight not only with my camera, but with a gun” said Alisa.

Spending months on the front line under shelling in Kharkiv region, miles away from her husband and young child, Alisa has lost her close friend during the fighting. She doesn’t lose hope, however, continuing to document Russia’s war crimes. 

Alisa Kovalenko Facebook-page