Defending Ukraine: Dattalion founders fight disinformation

Ukrainians are taking bold steps to preserve their nation’s sovereignty. A ShareAmerica series, Defending Ukraine, profiles some of the extraordinary people in Ukraine who exemplify that spirit.

People outside Ukraine cannot experience the war directly, so two activists from Ukraine made it possible to see and hear the conflict’s sights and sounds.

Nataliya Mykolska posted on social media images of Russia’s military attacking cities and towns across Ukraine in the days after the Kremlin launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022. When people kept asking for more information, she realized media had failed to meet the demand.

Valentina Synenka spoke with family members living in Russia when the war began who had a distorted view about the situation in Ukraine based on false reporting.

Three days after the invasion the pair started Dattalion, a site that shares images, videos and personal stories about the war’s effects on Ukraine. The aim is to inform the world about the invasion and counter Kremlin disinformation.

The truth is our weapon,” Mykolska, the site’s founder and CEO, told Grid News. “We are collecting data and imagery to show the world exactly what is being done to Ukraine.”

Portrait of woman with hands clasped (© Vladimir Shtanko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Nataliya Mykolska in Kiev in 2017 (© Vladimir Shtanko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Volunteer effort

Mykolska is a former deputy minister of economic development and trade, while Synenka works in technology. They lead Dattalion as volunteers because of their commitment to raising awareness about how Russia’s war affects Ukraine — and its people.

“It’s about delivering and sharing the truth [PDF, 9.2MB],” Synenka told Harper’s Bazaar.

Dozens of volunteers, all of them women, joined the initiative just days after its founding. Before the February 2022 invasion most volunteers worked in business, fashion, nonprofits or technology, far away from the battlefront.

“Every day there are more people coming to us and saying we are ready to speak up, we are ready to go public, notwithstanding potential threats to them,” Mykolska told Fox News. “We believe the world needs to see what we went through.”

Spotlighting smaller villages

As of January 2023, the site said, it had recorded 140 verified eyewitness accounts of the war. The group facilitates interviews between witnesses and journalists. The eyewitness database provides details of individuals and their stories.

Dattalion posts a weekly summary of events about the war. The site often spotlights smaller cities and villages that fail to receive wide media coverage.

The founders encourage media outlets to use the site’s images and are documenting the Russian government’s atrocities and potential environmental and war crimes.

“We are sharing real photos and videos from the frontlines, so that the world can bear witness to the truth,” the site says.