On this Thanksgiving Weekend Ukraine and USA Share Two More Things: Thankfulness and Violent Death Rates
At this time of Thanksgiving in the USA it’s intriguing to reflect on the reasons to give thanks in the USA even as we suffer a rash of mass shootings. Similarly, Ukraine would seem to have little to be thankful for given the war, power supplies under attack, etc. Americans can give thanks for steady power supplies, fresh running water, plentiful heat, and no missiles overhead. Ukrainians can be thankful I suppose just to be winning the war.
One of the most striking things people take away from watching Trek to Bucha is just how thankful Ukrainians are. Most interviewees in the film are thankful to have their family, friends, homes, and country survive. Not all though. The tragedies and atrocities mean that many, many people’s lives will never be the same again. Same for those who have lost loved ones to USA’s ubiquitous gun violence.
As I prepare to kick off Trek to Bucha’s promotional tour in Ukraine in January, I took a look at the #1 issue people understandably bring up when I tell them I’m going back: “Isn’t it dangerous?” To which I reply: “No more than here.”
Bottom line? It is just as likely someone will be killed in the USA by gun violence than in Ukraine from a missile strike. Here are the dismal statistics.
The difference is that in Ukraine they are Putin’s murders. In the USA, it’s Americans murdering Americans; part of the gun environment we’ve made for ourselves. Ukraine’s situation will hopefully end sooner than later. America’s will likely go on.
One thing to be thankful for in either case is that the chances are slim of being killed this way if you stay out of the war zones. So, in answer to those that wonder if I’m worried or scared to go back to Ukraine the answer is: “Not much”.
I’m thankful to have the opportunity to go back. I look forward to updating the stories with fresh interviews and footage and shooting the sequel: Back to Bucha.
Besides, there’s always a chance I can make a difference and support the cause.
Want to help? Book a screening and/or make a donation.
New trailer focuses on Ukraine’s SpiritAn updated trailer for Trek to Bucha is up at https://vimeo.com/709512914.
At just over two minutes we have shortened it by a good 20 seconds. But what is most important is new footage that we came back with in April 2022. Footage of interviews that, like the film, are much more about the Spirit of Ukraine’s people, rather than the damage and atrocities.
Stories of people like Tonya, the girl in Jul’s coffee shop in Bucha working without pay trying to get ready to serve free coffee to workers and neighbors once the lights came back on and water pressure restored. Forget the blown-out windows and pile of glass on the floor, she wanted to get back to work.
Stories of citizens like Alex and Maxim, and their friends at Match Restaurant in Kyiv who turned the place into a World Central Kitchen outpost serving more than 1,500 meals a day for anyone who needed them.
Stories of childhood friends like Igor and Victor, whose world was turned upside down when Bucha was occupied – and now are left with the aftermath. Or Timer, who never evacuated Bucha, telling of the day the Russians left and the cup of tea he enjoyed in complete silence in the middle of the road Russians used to attack, and then withdraw.
Stories of parishioners like those at Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic Church in Boston in conjunction with our partner Ukraine Forward, gathering supplies to be sent to the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv for front line troops.
The blown-up bridge, cooking over an open fire, and children’s art in the basement bomb shelter, are all still there. The story wouldn’t be complete without these, and they all add up to a witnessing of Ukraine’s Spirit in the war’s early days.
Roma Hayda of Providence, RI put it well after the film’s premiere screening:
“The documentary's texture presents the horror, terror, and yes, hope, without showing the gore of war. The generosity of spirit links all people of all walks and daily life… "
Take a look, and for more about Ukraine’s Sprit in the film go to Trek to Bucha Epilogue: Force Majeure (Act of God) – Part 2 (Spirit) (theoeco.org).
Overlooking destroyed Russian armor in Trek to Bucha’s poster
After much consideration – and a bit of inspiration - we have added an image to our poster of Saint Volodymyr in the clouds, a 10th century ruler at the heart of Russia’s twisted claim to Ukraine.
On this day of celebration in Ukraine as they retake Kherson City, millions will be praying in Ukrainian churches with images of Saint Volodymyr prominently displayed. Because, while Ukraine’s Christian past goes back to Saint Andrew in the first century, it was not fully Christianized until Volodymyr the Great ordered the baptism of the entire region in 988. Volodymyr the Great (encyclopediaofukraine.com)
You see, St. Volodymyr was from Kyiv, which was the capital of the Kievan Rus' empire long before Moscow was even a spot on the map. Russia co-opts and corrupts history by placing him at the center of their culture when convenient. This is not new, but it is critically important now as Ukraine fights for its freedom and national identity.
Saint Volodymyr’s icon therefore holds a central place in the theologies caught up in the war. A schism is developing within the Orthodox Church in which Russian Patriarch Kirill is supporting Russian nationalism and Putin in the war, while the Ukrainian Orthodox church has largely repudiated these dictates. Russian Patriarch Kirill Says Dying In Ukraine 'Washes Away All Sins' (rferl.org).
This image holds very special significance for me personally as we took it from the picture of Fr. Yaroslav standing in front of it at Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic Church in Boston in March 2022. Right where he called down a guardian angel to watch over me on my trek to Ukraine later that month.
It is a war fought on many levels. But for Ukrainians, Saint Volodymyr is clearly on the side of his Kyiv homeland and watching out for quixotic American documentarians who happen along to tell stories of its Spirit.