How to help Ukraine even from far away? Listen to the words of the protagonist of Derek Johnson’s documentary short film, now available on our charity screenings.
Filmmmakers for Ukraine meets Yulia Clack, protagonist of SIBS FILM, the documentary short film now available on our online charity screenings. The film directed by Derek Johnson is a 15 minute confession by Clack, pointing out the greatest strength of the Ukrainian people: their incredible sense of community
“I think the goal was to share what was in my heart and hoping it would touch somebody else’s heart. And people would respond to that” – says Clack interviewed by Pierpaolo Festa for Crew United. “One thing that I learned is that governments do their things, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But people want to help people. And they do. And I was so amazed by that. So encouraged (…) It has been the most encouraging thing to see, for me personally, being Ukrainian in the US, that people want to help people. It doesn’t matter what their government is doing. People have kind hearts“.
Watch the full conversation below:
SIBS FILM remarks the major strength of the Ukrainian people: how they managed to be a solid community through the hardships of the last decades. And now through the current war.
Please find below the full transcript of the conversation with Yulia Clack:
Hello, this is Pierpaolo Festa from Filmmakers for Ukraine. I am here talking to Yulia Clack, protagonist of SIBS FILM. Yulia, thank you for your time. And thanks also to Derek Johnson for giving us the film. This was very touching. There are thousands of stories by Ukrainians that left their country and are worth being listened to. Yours is one of them. First question is how did you get to become the voice in the film? How did your story become a film?
That’s actually a great question. You know that I am being here in the US right now. I came back from Ukraine to the United States in January, so a few weeks before the war started. When I got the news, I was the first one to call my mom on the phone to say: “mom the war has started! They are bombing us, our hometown, our cities!”. And I just felt really helpless being here across the ocean, and I asked myself: “how can I help? What can I do?”.
I work in production, so I feel way more comfortable being behind the scenes or on the other side of the camera. But I felt at that moment this was the only thing I could do. To use my voice. And I promised myself that I would just do it. It doesn’t matter if I would feel uncomfortable. I know the stories. My family is there, and I would be their voice here. So, by staying in touch and constantly getting updates from my family in Ukraine, I would just use my voice. To this day, nine months later, I encourage other people to do the same.
Can you tell me about the moment you showed the film to your family? What was their reaction?
So, my brother speaks English. My mother doesn’t speak it very well, but she said she did not need to understand the language to know “the heart” behind it. I hope I was able to communicate the message: what was in my heart.
Of course, you did, and it’s very touching. This documentary is about the community that SIBS was before the war and after it. Can we draw a line between these two things? How was it before? It was a centre of workshops, for people gathering together and learning English for example. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Yes, when we opened our first coffee shop, for me and my brother Andrey it was always more than “coffee”. I love coffee, don’t get me wrong, but I had a great opportunity to come to the United States and study here. So, after I was done with my college, I went back to Ukraine. I wanted to get back to my community. I know not everybody has a chance to go and study overseas, so I thought: “now we have a place. It’s our own. We can do whatever we want here not just serving coffee”. It became like a community hub for hosting English classes and then concerts.
And then we did someting we call “Street University”: things that you cannot learn at school. How to write a resume? How to travel light? It has been amazing and I met so many great friends. You know, I was out for four years, and then I was back to my hometown. And then you start your life all over again. Maybe I was a bit selfish, like: “I want friends! What’s the best to gather people around… I guess it’s always a cup of coffee!”. And then, when the war started, I don’t know if you knew that but our baristas showed up and servings were going on. There was so much uncertainty and yet they showed up to serve coffee to people.
Of course, I had to dismiss them that day for their safety, but they came back the next day. And we were looking for ways on how to stay open and then… you know we served coffee before the war and then we started making food and sandwiches. Our place was a place for people to bring whatever they had home for our soldiers. It’s been very difficult to watch it, but at the same time it’s been amazing. Our whole town came together.
Let’s go back to what you said because the first time I saw the film I was amazed by… the day the war starts, baristas show up… that was it?
They were like: “well, we got to do something”. I really wanted to play a part and everybody wanted to help. Everybody wanted to do something. (During) the first few days, my mom, my dad, my brother and his wife were able to organize a community. Our coffee shop was being a part of distributing food and supplies. And then our local church – I think about 200 women showed up because their men went to defend the country and they just came to make camouflage nets and candles for soldiers. It’s winter and winters in Ukraine are very cold. It was just amazing to see how something… like the worst thing that can happen to anybody can unite people.
This is incredible: the film is about that. You also left us a statement where you say that you believe anybody can help. And in helping, we contribute to the unity. And you call it “Victory”, is that so?
Yes, I do truly think that it doesn’t matter where you at. I feel we’re not just fighting for Ukraine, it’s not just that. We are fighting for the values, the humanity. We are fighting against evil. If I can serve as an example from here in the US, hopefully making some difference and helping to get us close to the Ukraine… then you can do it too. Anybody can do it. And I hold on to my brother’s words, because sometimes I feel discouraged.
I would like to be there hands and feet on the ground, but he says: “I believe that each one of us is exactly where he’s supposed to be”. I shared that with some other friends, and it was encouraging to them, because the resources you have there I don’t have them here. And vice versa. So, at the end when war comes to an end and we will celebrate our victory, it’s 100% not just Ukraine’s victory, it will be our victory. Our shared victory.
Thanks for explaining me this. So, from Seattle how are you helping SIBS and what SIBS does?
So, the war started at the end of February and on the first week of March we simply created an Amazon Wish List. And we thought like of every connection that I made in my four previous years here, so people started contributing. We ended up having forty-six suitcases that my husband flew to deliver to Ukraine with his friends. And then my brother in Ukraine met them at the border and got the supplies.
It was simply survival kits: water purifiers, tourniquets. And after that it seems like we never stopped. We set a goal in our community, people started bringing warm clothes for the winter or food. As of today we sent over fifteen tons of supply, by simply spreading the word. People kept telling their friends. And I was able to go back to Ukraine. And actually in two weeks my husband and I are going back to Ukraine with more supplies.
It is amazing that you are going back. Would you like to share a little bit more about you travelling home?
Yes, the first time I was back to Ukraine – my hometown is closer to the Russian border – it wasn’t very safe. But this time we decided that we are going to my hometown, there’s a lot of refugees, internally displaced people. Not everybody has an opportunity to go as far away from the border, closer to Poland or other countries. So, we decided that we’re going to go help distributing supplies. And we will help distribute supplies. And I know the biggest thing right now is going to cities and villages that have been under occupation. Cause they are struggling the most, people have no water nor electricity. So we are getting power banks, water purifiers, food, warm clothes to these places. Places that are hurting the most.
It’s interesting that you say that by watching the film, we can learn on how to help.
Yeah, I think the goal was to share what was in the heart and hoping it would touch somebody else’s heart. And people would respond to that.
I am in Europe and here people were ready to help and to brainstorm on how to help. Of course, we are closer to Ukraine. I would like to know how goes in the US in terms of helping, not just in your community. What’s your perception?
You always expect: “Oh why some countries can do more? Why is this war still happening?”. One thing that I learned is that governments do their things and there’s nothing you can do about it. But people want to help people. And they do. And I was so amazed by that. So encouraged… meeting somebody that I had never met before, they don’t know my family in Ukraine and they were like: “we just feel helpless, what can we do?”. It has been the most encouraging thing to see, for me personally, being Ukrainian in the US, that people want to help people. It doesn’t matter what their government is doing. People have kind hearts.
Your enthusiasm and positivity is contagious. Going back to the film, how hard was for you to share in front of a camera?
Even this… you know what bring me back is that my brother just came back from Bachmut, Donetsk region, where the hardest battles are taking place. And seeing what conditions people live in, I cannot complain or talk about how uncomfortable it is for me. Being vulnerable is not a norm in our society anymore.
Using your social media to be truthful to what you are is not really normal… we use filter and people just show the best pictures. And it was a challenge for me too. But I thought: “You know, I am here. I have a place to sleep. I have food. The only thing I can do is to share, and if I do it, I want to share from my heart. That’s all I have“. So, it’s not always easy to be true to yourself and to other people, but it’s really rewarding at the end.
SIBS FILM, by Derek Johnson (2022)
Yulia and her Brother Andrey opened Sibs, a coffee roasting business in Ukraine. Shortly after establishing the company, they grew their business, opening two coffee shops and empathically touching their community. Now that war has found their country; Sibs takes on a different purpose.
Although Yulia lives in Seattle with her husband, she still manages the daily business operations. The coffee shops have also become a resource for hosting English and other classes in the community. Learning English is a vital experience for Ukrainians seeking employment in tech and other global industries.
Now that war has found Ukraine, Sibs have pulled together the community to help support the effort for the soldiers fighting against a super military force, Russia.
Yulia has mobilized her community in the USA to gather life-saving supplies, including; medical, diapers, food, and clothing. Yulia’s Family and friends will pick up donations at the border and give items to those in need once inside the country.
Yulia plan’s to return to Ukraine one day and help rebuild the country.
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