A Ukrainan woman who earned viral fame on TikTok for documenting her family’s life in a bomb shelter during Russia’s invasion has successfully evacuated to Italy — but, she revealed in a new video, her 18-year-old brother didn’t make it.
Valeria Shashenok, 20, has racked up more than a million followers on the app, where she shared stories of her life underground after her home was bombed by Russian forces.
Two weeks ago, she left her parents behind in Chernihiv – a city in northern Ukraine that’s been heavily bombed by Russian forces – and travelled alone through Poland and Germany to a host family in Italy.
But while she is safely living as a refugee, she tearfully revealed on Wednesday that her younger brother did not survive the attacks.
‘Vladimir Putin killed my 18 years old brother in Ukraine while Russian people worry about closure McDonald [sic],’ she wrote.
Valeria Shashenok, 20, who went viral for documenting her life in a bomb shelter in Ukraine, said her brother has been killed by Russian forces
‘Vladimir Putin killed my 18 years old brother in Ukraine while Russian people worry about closure McDonald [sic],’ she wrote
Valeria wrote that she couldn’t stop crying and didn’t want to believe it was true
‘I love u, bro,’ she captioned the video, which has already been viewed more than 7/2 million times. ‘Putin is an evil’
Valeria shared a tearful selfie on TikTok, apparently taken not long after she got the tragic news.
She also included several photos of her brother, whose name she didn’t share, including one of them as small children.
Valeria wrote that she couldn’t stop crying and didn’t want to believe it was true.
‘I love u, bro,’ she captioned the video, which has already been viewed more than 7/2 million times. ‘Putin is an evil.’
The horrific news came just as Valeria was making the most of her new life in Italy, which she had escaped to with the help of a New York woman who connected her to an Italian family who would take her in.
She had shared vidoes of herself eating pasta, visiting Rome, and even meeting hte mayor of Milan.
She recently evacuated Ukraine and is now living as a refugee with an Italian family in Milan
She has shared videos from her time in Italy, a stark contrast to her life in a bomb shelter at home
Earlier this month, Valeria escaped to Poland, travelling from Chernihiv to Kyiv to Lviv. From Lviv, she travelled 10 hours on a train to Przemyśl standing up all the way.
Once in Poland, she travelled seven hours by train to Lodz, before getting another two hour train to Warsaw where she was able to reunite with her best friend.
She stayed in Warsaw for a few nights, sleeping on a mat in a refugee centre with dozens of others.
During her time in the Polish capital, Valeria drank the ‘cheapest coffee in the world’ volunteered with Ukrainian children and took photos of other refugees.
While in Warsaw she was unable to get on a flight because she didn’t have her passport, having fled Ukraine with just one bag of ‘pants and her camera’.
She has now shared clips from her daily life in Milan, which has included meeting the mayor (pictured) eating an ‘Italian diet’ with her friends and visiting Rome
Earlier this month, Valeria escaped to Poland, travelling from Chernihiv to Kyiv to Lviv. Pictured is a refugee centre she stayed in
One TikTok shows her making coffee with the caption: ‘Point of view. You made a coffee in Italy during the war in Ukraine and always think about your family that live in the bunker’ (left). Right her ‘Italian father’
Valeria also shared snaps from inside a refugee centre in Berlin – were there was useful things including toothpaste and German chocolate
Keeping in good humour, Valeria has also joked there a ‘restaurant for refugees’ that serves ‘good soup’
Travelling in style! From Lviv, she travelled 10 hours on a train to Przemyśl standing up all the way
Eventually, she was able to get a bus from Warsaw to Berlin, before getting on another bus in Berlin and making the 25 hour journey to Milan.
Her life in Milan appears charmed, although she has shared that it’s hard to think about her parents in Ukraine.
One TikTok video shows her making coffee with the caption: ‘Point of view. You made a coffee in Italy during the war in Ukraine and always think about your family that live in the bunker.’
Earlier videos recorded when she was living in the bunker showed her joking that she imagined she was in Italy after cooking pasta, as well as describing her underground shelter as a ‘five star hotel’ and her mother as a ‘Michelin starred chef’.
Once in Poland, she travelled seven hours by train to Lodz, before getting another two hour train to Warsaw – where she was able to reunite with her best friend. She is pictured on the Ukraine border
In recent clips, Valeria shared her ‘favourite things in her Italian kitchen’ including a ‘very cozy balcony’, ‘glasses of wine near the sink, cigarettes, vintage cupboards with ‘cute dishes’, and Italian cookies for breakfast.
She also revealed a typical day involves ‘coffee in the morning with her Italian dad’, visiting the Ukrainian embassy where ‘everybody hates each other’, pasta with her best friend, and dinner with Italian friends.
Last week, she met the mayor of Milan. They discussed the Russian invasion and travelled to Rome to appear on Italian TV.
Other clips show her trying on clothes that have been donated, including a dress she jokes is ‘perfect for a date with an old rich man’ and clothes for a 78-year-old.
Not a typical influencer haul! Other clips show her trying on clothes that have been donated, including a dress she jokes is ‘perfect for a date with an old rich man’ (right) and clothes for a 78-year-old
Other donated clothes were ‘perfect for a date with a sugar daddy’ Valeria joked
Valeria found viral fame after recording herself inside a bomb shelter.
Her videos included one in which she is woken up by her father, who jokingly calls her a ‘fat pig.’ In another, she says she ‘follows her mum around all day while she cooks.’
In yet another clip, the photographer says that her dog ‘doesn’t understand why they now live underground’. She also jokingly describes a standing tub as a ‘jacuzzi for hot girls’ and says that she pretends she punches Putin when hitting a punch bag.
She also filmed trips outside, including to the supermarket where most of the shelves are stripped bare.
Heartbreaking footage also shows cities in the country reduced to rubble – including the local cinema and many homes.
Social media has been used by President Zelensky and ordinary Ukrainians to expose the brutality of the conflict – but also by pro-Kremlin propagandists to spread disinformation.
Sharing images from inside a refugee centre, Valeria also joked they sleep in a ‘big bedroom where everyone love Putin’ and there’s a shower that she jokes is a ‘jacuzzi for hot Ukrainian refugees’
The Chinese-owned app, previously dominated by dancing and lip-syncing videos, has proven itself particularly suited to covering the conflict, with its simple editing software allowing users to share footage within seconds of it being filmed – before being shown to millions of young users via its powerful algorithm.
President Zelensky has made substantial use of social media videos to broadcast to the outside world, often while walking around the streets of Kyiv.
In a recent video, on February 26, he slammed ‘fake information’ that he was telling the army to lay down its weapons, while last week he filmed himself alongside his Cabinet to counter Russian claims he had fled.
Although these videos are usually posted onto Twitter, they are then shared by TikTok users and go on to spread rapidly through the platform.
In a clip before she jokes a bathing tub is a ‘jacuzzi’ – she is pictured while living in a bomb shelter in Ukraine
In one clip she cooks pasta to ‘pretend she’s in Italy’ from inside her bomb shelter
Valeria Shashenok, 20, has racked up more than 60 million views on the app, sharing stories of her life underground after her home was bombed by Russian forces – she is pictured pretending that she’s hitting a Putin and using the toilet as a reading room
One video shows a building with no windows left – while another she explains: ‘Today, Putin destroyed my house with a rocket while I was in a bomb shelter’