I did not know much about Ukraine, except that separatists loyal to Russia shot down that one commercial airplane this past year, until I watched Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom. Winter on Fire is a perfect introduction to the conflict in Ukraine and the ongoing human rights crisis therre. A slimy president, who promised the people membership to the European Union, went back on his promise and had secret talks with Russia, Ukraine’s former oppressor. At the center of all of this are the youth in my generation who were born in a Ukraine free from Russia’s leash. They grew up with the promise of European Union membership and all of the accompanying freedoms (and problems) dangling over their heads.
Whether or not you believe western liberal ideas about freedom and equality are overrated and not actually practiced, this documentary makes it tough for one to argue that Russia’s company is welcomed peacefully by the people. After the president goes back on his promise, the people organize and occupy the center of the administrative city in Ukraine, Maidan. Much like the Gezi protests and the Egyptian rebellion, these peaceful demonstrations of civil disobedience used humor, teach-in’s, barricades, national pride, and courage to resist the repressive Berkut, the iron fist of the president. Iron batons, metal shields, rubber bullets, tear gas, flash grenades, and eventually, live ammunition could not weaken the youth’s grip on what they say is a free future for generations to come.
Winter on Fire is an inspiring documentary that capitalizes on the resilience of human beings and rejuvenates one’s hope for progress and unity in the face of oppression.