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Special Project

Special Project
From the 8th Annual Shorty Impact Awards

Don't Leave Me Behind: Stories of Young Ukrainian Survival

Winner in Emergency Relief

Finalist in Global Campaign

Silver Honor in Human Rights, Documentary Short

Bronze Honor in Youth & Family


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine triggered a mass exodus of 5.15 million Ukrainian civilians fleeing to Poland - half of them teenagers or younger.

Don’t Leave Me Behind: Stories of Young Ukrainian Survival brings viewers just miles from the Ukrainian-Poland border, chronicling the lives of Ukrainian teenage refugees as they process the unimaginable trauma of being displaced from their country and separated from their fathers fighting the war at home. The film highlights two teenagers Oleksandra "Sasha" Kunitska, 18, and Dasha Unger, 15, in their new lives as they try to find normalcy in Poland - through volunteering work, mental health support, family and friendships - while maintaining hope for their families left behind, home country and their own futures.

By highlighting the authentic day-to-day experiences of young people directly impacted by the war in Ukraine, MTV set out to achieve the following:

Expand the conversation: Don’t Leave Me Behind: Stories of Young Ukrainian Survival offered a perspective on the growing youth mental health crisis in Ukraine and surrounding areas - an otherwise overlooked impact of the invasion.

Elevate solutions: The campaign aimed to connect young people impacted by the war in Ukraine, as well as young people around the world who may be struggling emotionally in light of global unrest, with accessible programs and resources to support emotional well-being.

Inspire action: The magnitude of this crisis left many around the world feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how to help. MTV aimed to empower viewers with a range of meaningful, accessible ways to make a difference.

Strategy and Execution

The MTV team leveraged a variety of tactics to maximize reach and engagement with the powerful stories highlighted in Don’t Leave Me Behind: Stories of Young Ukrainian Survival. The film release and impact campaign focused on a message of hope and resilience to honor the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and offer a solutions-oriented perspective to viewers.

Creative: The team worked with Ukrainian artist Kateryna Gaidamaka to design the film’s logo, ensuring that the visuals of the film reflected a unique and personal point of view.

Social Media: The campaign leveraged the vast MTV, MTV News, and Smithsonian Channel social footprints to drive awareness, push messaging, and amplify partners.

Communications: The team arranged to break the news in entertainment trade Deadline and exclusively announce the trailer in CNN’s Reliable Sources - a reporter daily read - inserting the film into the national media conversation. Leveraging President Biden’s planned visit to Poland, we secured CBS Mornings, CNN Newsroom, CBS New York, ABC News Radio, SiriusXM as well as a robust satellite media tour in top media markets as well as tune-in coverage from The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Tribune News Service.

Programming: MTV aired the film commercial-free, providing the documentary with prime placement on a long-running, established programming night for the channel.

Impact hub: In addition to driving engagement with the documentary, messaging around the film’s release highlighted opportunities for viewers to learn more and get involved at the film’s impact hub, The impact hub features action opportunities and resources from organizations including Choose Love, The Educational Equality Institute, the World Health Organization, and Bring Change 2 Mind.

Screenings: MTV offered free screenings of the film to key stakeholders and communities. Notably, it screened at the Annual Meeting of the Ukrainian Psychiatric Association for mental health leaders from around the world - alongside a discussion about strategies to help children and families impacted by the war.


Don’t Leave Me Behind: Stories of Young Ukrainian Survival and the associated impact campaign helped drive global conversation, elevate solutions among key stakeholders, and inspire action among viewers.

More than 1,000 viewers visited the film’s impact hub to find ways to get involved. Viewers took a variety of actions such as:

Donating to Choose Love, which supports over 90 grassroots organizations in Ukraine and across Europe providing resources to young people impacted by the war.

Finding volunteer opportunities through the Educational Equality Institute’s Together for Ukraine initiative. Volunteers from around the world are connected virtually with Ukrainians impacted by the war to provide mentorship, English language classes, and upskilling courses.

Additionally, the film sparked conversation among viewers and key stakeholders focused on finding solutions to support the well-being of young Ukrainians impacted by the war.
Social posts surrounding the film’s release generated 815k views and 25K engagements across platforms.


Video for Don't Leave Me Behind: Stories of Young Ukrainian Survival

Entrant Company / Organization Name

MTV Entertainment Studios


Entry Credits