Updated Oct 28, 2022, 11:48am EDT

Life in Bucha under Russian occupation, animated with AI

Tanya is a Russian-born, New York-based video journalist and documentary filmmaker at Semafor. You can subscribe to Semafor’s YouTube channel here.

This video is based on a verified, first-hand account of life under Russian occupation, which has been transformed into illustrations of those words created by an artist and an AI tool.


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The News

Days after Russian forces withdrew from the Kyiv region in late March 2022, the small town of Bucha made front-page headlines across the world. Harrowing images of tortured and killed civilians — some shot at point-blank range, some mutilated, and some raped — were among the first visual evidence of alleged brutal war crimes committed during the Russian occupation.

Russian authorities denied the allegations, variously dismissing the videos as fake or accusing Ukraine of orchestrating the killings as a false flag operation.

This is the story of Tetiana Sichkar, a 20-year-old Bucha resident who remained in town until its liberation by the Ukrainian forces.


Sichkar’s account was reported with a local journalist who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of his work. Semafor independently corroborated this story.

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Witness is a new series of firsthand stories from around the world. After we corroborate these accounts, an artist animates the words using artificial intelligence.

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Joe Posner, Head of Video