I went looking for Satanists but all I found were Christians.
When I went back to Ukraine in January I had in my mind to do three things:
Additionally, while there I thought I would try to find some of the “Satanists” that Putin, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, and others in Russia have been talking about to justify Russia’s invasion. See: Satanism, De-Satanization, and Exorcism in Contemporary Russian Rhetoric: Historical Reflections - Cornell University Press
Alas, all I found were Christians.
Like the USA Ukraine is a largely Christian nation (Ukrainian Orthodox mostly with a large segment of Ukrainian Greek Catholics), though all the major religions are represented (President Zelensky is Jewish, for instance). Unlike the USA there are relatively few Protestants, though I did find a Charismatic church forced online by the war, a Lutheran church with a lady pastor in Kyiv, even a Presbyterian minister from Dallas leading a Reformed congregation in Lviv!
All in all though Ukrainian Christians see the world very much in unity when it comes to the war. The Ukrainian Orthodox community has broken with the Russian Orthodox church. Ukraine is an ecumenical laboratory as described to me by Father Roman Nebozhuk, a priest at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Kyiv. We get a glimpse of him in the trailer where we also meet his daughter Andriana who gives us a tour of a Kyiv Kindergarten and its bomb shelter.
Ukraine is a nation much like the USA in terms of the practical nature of Christendom that thrives there. Like the USA most were raised Christian. Also, like Americans most don’t go to church regularly though many do. I definitely attended some packed services while I was there. I also encountered several priests and pastors whom I was able to interview for the film.
What I was most struck by were the moms I encountered talking about God and how He is looking out for them. Women are the biggest difference between now and last Spring. They are back. Why? Because they want to raise their kids in their own homes in their own country. It is safe enough except for those on the front lines, notwithstanding the ongoing missile attacks. Children go to school; grocery stores are stocked; shops are open. You can see a movie, get your hair done, and go to restaurants. Rebuilding has begun – especially noticeable in Bucha.
For instance, we saw in Trek to Bucha that Jul’s Coffee shop was completely blown out during the Russian occupation. It has since been rebuilt and we get to meet the owner Julia, an Orthodox Christian mother of five who could easily fit into any PTA in the USA. She couldn’t wait to get back to Bucha to start rebuilding their lives - a story I heard repeatedly from moms I met.
No one gets to live a “normal” life in Ukraine.
In Kyiv I immediately noticed that while there were still many soldiers about, few were carrying guns – a big change from before.
Life can actually feel pretty normal once you get accustomed to the sirens. You get used to things like a nationwide curfew and intermittent blackouts. Hot water can be a luxury. And those living in Bucha, Irpin, and other formerly front-line areas are living amongst devastated areas. It is normal. Of course, living in Bucha means you also live in the midst of sites of unspeakable war crimes - and the risk that the Russians will reinvade.
No one gets a “normal” life in Ukraine which has lost 35% of its GDP by some estimates See: Ukraine: Gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate 2022 | Statista. All airports are closed. And many of those with family ties to Russia no longer speak to their loved ones there. All know someone fighting and those of fighting age know they can be called up at any time. Many know someone who has died or disappeared. All long for things to get back to normal.
Like Julia at the coffee shop, rebuilding and hope are also the norm. As is planning – and investing - for the future. Like Alex and Maxim at Match Bistro in Kyiv. Last April they were serving up more than 1,500 meals a day with World Central Kitchen. Since then they have moved to a bigger space down the street and are planning a renovation. It is the hippest place in town. And the Viktoria Park Hotel in Bucha is back and open for business featuring the best restaurant in town. It was wonderful to hold our Bucha premiere in the packed ballroom on February 5th.
Ukrainians want to be part of Europe. They voted for it and have been fighting for it since the Euromaidan uprising in November 2013. Ukraine has rejected Russia and will join the EU, something Putin cannot abide. As if he really has a choice. He doesn’t; Ukraine has been independent ever since the Soviet Union’s breakup in 1991. It will never go back.
Ukrainians have grown up in peace. Their country was built on the concept of being peaceful. In 1994 it gave up one of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals when it left the Soviet Union and signed the Budapest Memorandum. Yet, they have been invaded by those they thought were their brothers. Now, there is an existential threat to their country. Their and their family’s liberties are at risk. They have faith – but can’t be positive – their country will win, nor have any idea when it will end. It makes planning tough. Though planning and building they are.
Mostly, spirits are high with hope the war will end this year.
Back to Bucha captures all of this.