In February of 2014, protests against the corrupt government broke out in East Ukraine. A revolution began, in which neighboring Russia intervened by covertly sending troops to the Donbass region. A full-blown war broke out by May. After month-long fighting and thousands of fallen, a ceasefire was called.
Although the battle ended, the war continued. According to experts, this is a case of frozen conflict, but the firing has yet to end. Ceasefires have only been ordered and violated over and over again.
French journalist Loup Bureau spent months in the muddy frontlines of the Donbass region. He documents the twentysomething-year-old Ukrainian soldiers who fight against the Russia-backed separatists. The witnessed warfare is not modern, distant and videogame-like, but rather old-school tactics, hovering in bunkers and trenches to avoid enemy fire.
As nerve-racking as warfare is, it can also be dull. Soldiers pass the time by throwing knives as darts, petting stray animals or playing video games such as Call of Duty. Now and then, we are reminded of the realities of war, as someone is injured or a life is lost. Counterattacks are made, but mostly the Ukrainian soldiers focus on digging new trenches. Consequently, the soldiers are more likely to have picks or shovels in their hands than guns. Digging is a means of survival.
Bureau’s wonderfully filmed and directed, immersive documentary proves yet again, that history repeats itself. And reminds us, that there is an ongoing war in Europe even at this very moment.
Marko Ylitalo (translated by Milla Sairanen)