Real-life Ukrainian refugees recreate their PTSD in UNHCR's powerful ad

Film made by Don't Panic and Stink included an all refugee cast and crew

Published On
Jun 15, 2022

Editor's Pick

Real life Ukrainian refugees make up the entire cast of a new film from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, that shines a light on their experiences as World Refugee Day approaches on June 20. 

The film, by Don't Panic and Stink Films, shows people in everday situations—their bedroom, a grocery store, a bus ride— who are experiencing the effects of PTSD after being uprooted from war zones. We see how noises like a door slamming or fireworks can set them off into a blind panic, even in a new environment. 

The film is being shown for free in cinemas across the U.K, in a deal with cinema media firm Pearl and Dean. It is also being screened at branches of the private members club Soho House. It will be released globally on social media along with three companion films that delve further into the stories of the real-life refugees. For example in “Meet Olya,” we hear how the lead actor is actually playing herself, and to this day hasn’t seen her parents again.


Another film features more members of the cast and crew, what they experienced and why they were compelled to make this film and a third shows the Ukrainian refugees receiving letters of support from refugees from other parts of the world such as South Sudan and Cameroon.


Stink Films director Andzej Gavriss wrote the concept with Ukrainian choreographer Konstantin Koval, himself a refugee, and Don’t Panic London’s creative partner, Rick Dodds, later bringing in UNHCR as a partner. Production took place in Berlin, where many Ukrainian refugees have landed since fleeing their homes, with the team spreading the word among the refugee community.

In total, more than 50 refugees from Ukraine were involved in the project including all the talent featured in the film, and contributing to many of its ideas. For example, the actors’ wardrobes incorporated an item of clothing they wore when fleeing their country: an idea from the clothes stylist, herself a refugee. The film also features music from Mavka, a Ukrainian band that the creative and production team found in Berlin.


“From conception to delivery, refugees from Ukraine have been at the heart of the team,” said Rick Dodds, creative partner at Don’t Panic, in a statement. “Not only have their first hand experiences been woven into the script, but their talents as an actor, dancer, choreographer is what makes this film so powerful. The companion films are also incredibly moving, as it’s the first time I can remember hearing from refugees with job titles similar to our own. As creative professionals they are all at the top of their game.”

“From the moment Andzej told me about his idea for this film, it was imperative we get it made and bring in the right people,” added Blake Powell, Stink’s global head of film. “I called Rick (Don’t Panic) who suggested collaborating with the UN Refugee Agency. From there, Rick, Andzej, and UNHCR, worked tirelessly together to mould and shape the idea. We are incredibly proud of the outcome and hope it raises awareness and support for the many brave refugees around the world.”