Woo hoo! The day is almost here and we are SO looking forward to the premiere of Back to Bucha: Finding the Spirit in Ukraine at the place where it all began, Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic Church in Boston tomorrow, Sunday the 30th. The screening will take place at 12:30 PM Boston time (19:30 Bucha time), and several of the film’s “stars” in Ukraine will participate in the Q&A afterwards via Zoom. The entire event will be live streamed on Facebook Live at facebook.com/TheoEcoOrg so that all can join us worldwide live from Boston and Ukraine.
Two of the film’s “stars” who will be joining us include Father Roman Nebozhuk (UCC) and his daughter Andriana in Kyiv.
Fr. Roman is Archpriest of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Patriarchal Cathedral in Kyiv and at the center of the ecumenical community in Kyiv working with Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Jewish, and Islamic faith leaders there.
Andriana is an attorney in Kyiv who also works at the Nursery school so prominent in the new film where she acts as both guide and impassioned interviewee.
I am also hopeful that several others will be joining as well including the ladies at Jul’s Coffee and Peace coffee shop in Bucha. This is going to be a celebration!
I am also very excited that Valeriia Vovk will be performing The War We Didn’t Ask For and several other selections before the screening. Valeriia donated the use of this song which is featured poignantly throughout the film – and it really sets the tone. Originally from Odesa she has Boston ties as a graduate of Berklee College of Music and as a member of Bear Witness where I was introduced to her by its president Alex Gamota. Both Valeriia and Alex will be joining the Q&A panel in Boston. For more see Back to Bucha – Valeriia Vovk to Perform at Boston Premiere (theoeco.org)
Seats are still available and registering for the event is encouraged to assure you have a seat. To register click here.
There is no charge to attend though donations are encouraged. 50% of net proceeds will go to Ukraine Forward and Bear Witness. To donate click here.
I hope to see you there or on TheoEco’s facebook page!
By Steve Richards
This past January when I made it to Kyiv I posted a video (Hello from Kyiv! Wish You Were Here) showing how normal – if somewhat empty – Kyiv seemed. Shops open; people on the streets; plenty of restaurants to choose from; Ubers available; trains running, it was a far cry from my first visit in April 2022, a month after the full-scale invasion. The post triggered a somewhat alarming reply on Facebook though. A question being asked increasingly in America: “Why should we bother to help Ukraine?” This was my reply:
“Imagine the USA with the east coast and Florida under Russian control but you're in Chicago and everything is open. But the Russians are also best buddies with Canada and have already launched an attack from there that almost succeeded but was repelled, but still threatening to happen again in the coming months. Also imagine ongoing missiles and drone strikes. Then imagine a tourist coming and taking pics for a week while things are good. So, try to take my video in context.”
Since then I’ve thought A LOT about this question. Because as obvious as it is to me, it’s not obvious to many in the USA. So let me give it a more thoughtful try.
A Cold War Kid
A Cold War Kid means I was brought up in the time before Gorbachev and was already 30 years old at the time Ukraine achieved its independence in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s break up in 1991. The Cold War began at the end of the second world war and was framed as an ideological, political, economic, cultural war between capitalism and democracy on one hand, versus communism and autocracy on the other. All in a new technological age of missiles, nuclear weapons and the resulting nuclear arms race as the menacing backdrop. It was deemed “cold” because the USA and the USSR didn’t fire shots at each other. Rather we fought largely through our proxies and our spies.
If you want to do the math I am 62 now and for each of those years I’ve been under threat from nuclear attack by Russia. All of us in the USA have been – and still are. When I was born in 1960 ICBMs were a new thing and the Soviet Union and USA had enough pointed at each other, along with bombers and submarine-based missiles, to wipe each other out. Growing up in the cold war meant we all knew we were under constant threat and there was nothing we could do about it. I personally remember coming to this realization in middle school. We knew that Russia and the Soviets were not our buddies. In fact, if not for all our weapons and NATO they might kill us all if they could. They still can:
Putin controls around 5,977 such warheads as of 2022, compared to 5,428 controlled by U.S. President Joe Biden, according to the Federation of American Scientists. Around 1,500 of those Russian warheads are retired (but probably still intact), 2889 are in reserve and around 1588 are deployed strategic warheads. About 812 are deployed on land-based ballistic missiles, about 576 on submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and around 200 at heavy bomber bases, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Factbox: Russia's nuclear arsenal: How big is it and who controls it? | Reuters
Intriguingly, a lot of those missiles used to be based in Ukraine. But, In the aftermath of the Soviet breakup Ukraine voluntarily gave up their nukes in return for security guarantees from the USA, the UK, and, incredibly, Russia. This deal was memorialized in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. Russia took control of Ukraine’s nuclear stockpiles. Those nukes are still meant for one place though; the USA and its allies, as we are frequently reminded by Putin, his generals, the Russian press, milbloggers, etc.
So, in keeping an eye on our own personal self-interest let’s not lose sight of America’s #1 nemesis for the past 78 years.
It is Russia.
I am excited to announce that Valeriia Vovk (ValeriiaVovk.com), composer of The War We Didn’t Ask For, will be performing at the Boston premiere of Back to Bucha on April 30th. Valeriia donated the use of her song which is featured in the film and the film’s trailer. Originally from Odessa, Ukraine she uses her music as a foundation for her activism for Ukraine. She has Boston ties as a recent graduate of Berklee College of Music and as a member of Bear Witness where I was introduced to her by Alex Gamota. Bear Witness is an Executive Producer of Back to Bucha.
As she describes it: “The War We Didn’t Ask For is an aggressive song about the beginning of war. It translates the anger, fear, sadness, and readiness to fight”.
When I first heard it I was blown away even though I didn’t understand the words as she sings them in Ukrainian. When I watched the video with English captions I noted the softer elements of the song with phrases like: “You could hear how everyone in the country had a prayer on their lips”; “We’ve been told that we’re the flowers of Ukraine”; and perhaps most of all: “Because freedom is everything to us”. I also love: “That the children of Kozaks fight” and “Ukraine you are alive!”.
Непрошена Війна (The War We Didn't Ask For) | Valeriia Vovk - YouTube
Valeriia’s performance and Back to Bucha’s premiere screening will take place at Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic Church in Jamaica Plain at 12:30 PM Boston time (18:30 Bucha time). We are also hopeful that a star or two in Ukraine will be able to participate in the Q&A afterwards. The entire event will be live streamed on Facebook Live.
To reserve a seat at the premiere click here.