Last night I thought I was going to the movies at the IFC theater in the West Village, but instead I went back to Kyiv and joined the protests that took place at Maidan Nezalezhnosti, in November 2013. That is how vivid the depiction was by Director Evgeny Afineevsky in his newly released documentary “Winter on Fire.”
The footage was all too familiar, but Afineevsky uniquely transcends the viewer back to the beginning of the crisis, and as each event unfolds, the viewer becomes more deeply vested in the cause. Before you know it, you’re all in – you join the frustration and the anger of the protesters, you feel compassion for the hurt and you cry for the beaten and the dead.
But the film doesn’t just document the events of a 93-day showdown that overthrew a president – it does much more. It captures the humanity of the event. Peaceful protests that turned violent upon government orders, elicited a reaction that only strengthened the resolve of the people and underscored the relevance of their cause. A nation bonded together in unity and provided support to the embattled.
Unity was another theme that was prevalent throughout this film. The events at Maidan united people of various backgrounds, ages, religions and economic means. It was even described to me later by the Director, that he saw a woman park her Mercedes several blocks away from Independence Square, and walk in her high heeled shoes to join others and help cook food for the protesters. This was everybody’s fight.
The Ukrainian people showed highest regard for human life as they tearfully described the accounts of the fallen. This was also something that struck me when I was in Kyiv; as I toured the streets where the protests took place, those who were there pointed out the locations that were marked by peril. And as they showed me those sites that were riddled with bullets and still smeared with blood, they promised that lives that were lost, would not be in vain. Respect.
The events at Maidan changed the course of history. It was clear from the brutality in which the Ukrainian government treated its own people, that Ukraine under Yanukovich, was headed towards becoming a tyrannical state. And as I watched this film, I thanked God that the people of Ukraine had the courage and strength to stand up and fight – because if they didn’t, Ukraine today, would be a very different country. Ukraine today, would be a country without freedom.
This film is a very important film. This film is not about the Ukrainian politics, it first and foremost about human rights. It is about the fight for human dignity and the strength of the human spirit. And the events documented by this film are not just about a Ukrainian issue, they are about world issues. This film should serve as both a reminder and a warning to our world leaders that role of government is to serve the people and it is the people, that ultimately hold the power.
A “Winter on Fire” is available on Netflix.