Back in March, around the time of International Women’s Day, Angelina Jolie was in Yemen as part of her work with the UNHCR for three days meeting with “both internally displaced Yemenis as well as refugees in the north and south of the country”. Six weeks later and another trip, this time a visit to Lviv, Ukraine. Her appearance was a surprise, I found out about it on Twitter because she was trending for a few hours on Saturday after photos and video of her started circulating on social media.
âš¡ï¸ Actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie was spotted at a cafe in western Ukrainian city of Lviv on April 30.— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) April 30, 2022
Jolie is a special envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Video: Maya Pidhoretska via Facebook. pic.twitter.com/CBtR4HBMNR
Actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie visits the central railway station in Lviv to welcome the internally displaced Ukrainians arriving on an evacuation train from Pokrovsk, a city in Donetsk Oblast, on April 30. Jolie is a special envoy of UNHCR.— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) April 30, 2022
Photo: Ukrainian Railways. pic.twitter.com/KNmnKyYur8
Angelina has drawn attention to the situation in Ukraine on her own Instagram account in recent months, with specific focus on the consequences of conflict on children:
This was not a UNHRC coordinated trip. As her good friend and long-time associate Arminka Helic, a member of the House of Lords, explained:
Humanitarian #AngelinaJolie is visiting #Ukraine to meet children affected by the conflict, and local organisations working to protect them. Her visit is a private humanitarian fact-finding mission, focussed on the needs of children. ðŸ‘‡ https://t.co/YUnZI9VwUT— Arminka Helic (@arminkahelic) April 30, 2022
#AngelinaJolie met today with orphaned and displaced children â€“ including children evacuated from Mariupol â€“ and Ukrainian volunteers and doctors caring for them, as well as local NGOs working on civilian protection. ðŸ‘‡#Ukraine https://t.co/IeNIXN47AG— Arminka Helic (@arminkahelic) April 30, 2022
A private mission likely means that Angelina organised and funded it herself so that would include coordinating with guides and translators, local advocates to set up the meetings, hiring a video crew to document the trip, and other necessary participants that needed to be engaged in order to get sh-t done. Of course she’s aware of her profile and how her presence can attract eyeballs to the situations and the issues she’s trying to highlight but for her, always, it’s also being informed, hearing from people first-hand what their experiences are so that she can in turn share them on her platforms. Sometimes at personal risk. She’s spending financial and emotional energy in a warzone after all. And at one point during the mission, this happened:
BREAKING : â€¼ï¸â€¼ï¸— Zaid Ahmd î¨€ (@realzaidzayn) April 30, 2022
â™¦ï¸Footage shows Angelina Jolie has been immediately evacuated and escorted to the Lviv regional administration building after an Air raid alert issued
â™¦ï¸ Air raid siren alert continues to sound in Lviv
#AngelinaJolie #Ukraine #Russia pic.twitter.com/2LXaejNrEO
The work continued after that pause for safety and there is a lot of footage of her online playing with children, talking to displaced people, mourning with citizens and hearing their stories.
ðŸŽ¥ #AngelinaJolie visits #Lviv, #Ukraine to meet children affected by the conflict, and local organisations working to protect them. Her visit is a private humanitarian fact-finding mission, focused on the needs of children. pic.twitter.com/2kSOVerVOG— Tres ðŸ¥‰ (@Dagger_Knox) May 1, 2022
Yes, she is a celebrity which means that yes, she understands the power of media and her own media power. But there’s nothing to hate here – she is using it as it should be used in her position. And no doubt at some point soon she’ll be sharing what she’s just learned, through her media connections, in a much bigger way.