Social media is providing an intimate lens into Russia's invasion of Ukraine as people across the world get access to first person accounts of the conflict from those living in Kyiv. Kristina Korban is one of them, who took to her TikTok and Instagram accounts last week to share a video of herself in bed when the first explosions struck the city.
In the days since, she's shared updates about the invasion and how it's impacted the lives of Ukrainians, gaining an immense following of people invested in her experience.
The 32-year-old tells Yahoo Life that she works full-time as an investor and uses social media as an extension of her business where she creates content educating people about how to invest and trade in the financial markets. But her platforms are currently dedicated to informing people about the events in Ukraine.
"I posted my first war TikTok video before the invasion was even on the news. We woke up [to] blasts and I felt compelled to share just in case something happened to us," Korban explains.
At the time, Korban had just 6,000 followers on TikTok and was surprised to see that her video received 9 million views. The reach that it had and the response that it garnered was the reason that she continued to post. Her page now includes updates of what grocery stores and gas stations look like in the country's capital. She's also spoken about the reality of finding shelter in her parent's home with her 2-year-old daughter and 15 other family members, while rationing the food that they have available.
"It wasn't my intention to make this shift," she says of the evolution of her content, "but so many people were checking in on us and worried that I felt a responsibility to keep them updated. They are all so incredible and sweet, I can't let them down. I am also now seeing that it is my duty to provide accurate information and updates as there are so many sources providing inaccurate news."
Since recognizing the reach of her platform, Korban has taken the time to provide followers with proof of her location in Kyiv in an effort to battle misinformation and misleading content circulating online. She's also provided opportunities for her audience to get to know her better, putting a face to just one of the innocent lives being impacted by the invasion.
"I am Ukrainian. I was born in Kyiv, Ukraine, and I lived a large portion of my life in the United States. I currently split my time between the U.S. and Kyiv, Ukraine. I am here in Kyiv with my family and my two-year-old daughter and that is where I'm living now," she explained in one video addressing questions about her English. "I initially left Ukraine because my parents brought me out of the country because I was having really bad thyroid issues from Chernobyl, which is a nuclear power plant just outside of Kyiv that exploded and caused crazy amounts of radiation all throughout Ukraine and Europe."
It's this type of intimacy that has allowed Korban to become a trusted source for the more than 494,000 people now following her TikTok for regular updates on the state of Kyiv and those living within it. Korban also hopes that her connection with people across the world will provide Ukraine with the support that it needs.
"I think it is a beautiful thing that we have such platforms now and people can get information and insight from sources that are more relatable and actually on the ground," Korban says. "It's bringing more people together and also providing them with a way they can help — which is by sharing the content and getting the right information spread. People are confused and looking for answers, so I'm hoping my content can help answer some of those for them."
She's even had the chance to organize her own relief efforts with the help of social media users around the world, including starting a fundraiser to help provide Ukrainians with food, medical supplies and transportation.
The composed temperament that she's displayed in most of her videos isn't a full representation of her range of emotions, she says, but she's tried to remain calm for the sake of both her audience and her family.
"You waste a lot of valuable energy by being in a constant state of stress and emotion, and this is a time when you have to make rational decisions and be quick on your feet," Korban explains. "Obviously I've had many emotional breakdowns and anxiety attacks throughout these days, I just don't feel everyone needs to see that all the time and it doesn't provide any value. I would rather be a source for people to find ways they can help and correct information. I do at times show more vulnerable sides of myself, but I try to keep it to a minimum because people are worried and I [don't] want to cause anymore stress in others."
Although the outcome of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is unknown, Korban has made one thing clear: "We Ukrainians are a different breed."
"In a sense we are documenting history, and the future generations will not only be able to read textbooks about what happened but will be able to watch real accounts from real people and actually feel what it was like," Korban says. "Right now, I have thousands of concerned and loving subscribers who are helping us get through this."
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