Freedom and human dignity. That’s what Ukrainians were fighting for in 2013-2014 when their president betrayed them by choosing to align with Russia over the European Union. Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom is a documentary feature that alternates between film footage of the actual protests, and interviews with some of the participants who were there.
The people of Ukraine see themselves as European. When President Yanukovich sided with Russia, students spontaneously gathered in Independence Square in Kiev. When the police, heavily shielded in protective gear, came to disperse the group and began beating them with iron sticks, other citizens joined in. They were outraged that the government would harm their children, so people from all over Ukraine, many religions, many languages, many ages, came to support them.
This reminded me of Vietnam War protests in the 1960’s. It was chilling. Months and months passed with no movement by the government to give the Ukrainian people what was requested. Former military leaders helped the protestors organize and protect themselves, building barricades and providing support. Those who had cars formed a circle around the protestors camping out, and were an integral part of the protest.
The protestors were non-violent, and it was only when the police started shooting them with rubber bullets and then mixed live ammunition in, that the violence really escalated. I found myself thinking, this is real life, these are real people being injured and killed, standing up for their beliefs and against a dictator who lied to them again and again. This is not fiction, like some other violence addled fictional movies out there. If people want to watch violence, at least watch the real thing, people putting themselves on the line every day, not some stupid action movie with super heroes. All the people who protested are heroes; average young men and women, mothers and fathers, religious leaders, who all set aside their lives for this cause.
I highly recommend this film. It is a reminder that every nation is built on individuals who speak up for what is right, and put their lives on the line until justice prevails.
As I sat and watched the days tick by for the Ukrainian citizens in this struggle, I thought about what I was doing on that particular day; how could I have not known about this fight? We are so consumed with our day-to-day lives, we forget that this planet is filled with individual souls also dealing with their own personal struggles in the world. Everywhere there are real life dramas being played out. For the Ukrainians, some of their hopes were fulfilled, for others, the struggle continues.
I don’t pretend to know much about the politics of that region, but I can sympathize with the protestors. I think you will find this a moving documentary film. It was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at this year’s Academy Awards, but the documentary film Amy won that honor instead. Stay tuned for a review of that documentary as well.