This is the final instalment to Back to Bucha’s Press Kit which also includes still photos, the trailer, logline, Director’s Statement, etc. To see the entire Press Kit click here.
The Women, Kids, Young Men, and Pastors of Ukraine’s Spirit.
Back to Bucha opens with a poem. A poem written by Phyllis Wheatley in 1784, an African American who captures the essence of what Ukrainians are fighting for: In every human Breast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Love of Freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants for Deliverance.
Unlike the original Trek to Bucha shot in the early days of the full-scale invasion, Back to Bucha is filled with women and their children. Beginning in April 2022 in the film’s opening scenes in Bucha we meet Tonya at a destroyed coffee shop, sweeping up broken glass and trying to reopen the shop at least enough to serve free coffee to the workers and neighbors who were still there.
Flash forward 10 months and we meet Tonya plus Julia, the shop’s owner. At the newly rebuilt Jul’s Coffee and Peace we get an upbeat and hopeful interview about Julia’s return with her family and the Spirit that drives them to rebuild. They believe God is watching over them.
Back to Bucha is filled with scenes of life in Ukraine during January and February 2023. From Lviv to Kyiv to Bucha we get the real-life realities of Ukrainians and what’s changed since we were there in April 2022 shooting Trek to Bucha – and what hasn’t. For instance we see at the Kyiv train station that the ubiquitous armed soldiers - and their guns - are largely gone in what is a fully functioning, if underpopulated, Kyiv. We see life going on pretty well actually, aside from the sirens and power outages which are part of the fabric of life.
Next in Kyiv the film takes us into a kindergarten where we get an interview with Andriana, a worker at the school. She tells us about the heartbreaking, though heartening day to day reality, of raising young children in Kyiv right now. We also get to meet several mothers of the students who talk about their experiences of first fleeing, and then returning to the city to raise their kids, in their homes, in their home country.
Next up is Father Roman of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, the first of several pastors in the film. He talks about how various faiths in Ukraine work together to support Ukraine. We also hear from the Ukrainian Orthodox rector of St. Andrew’s in Bucha, perhaps the most iconic building in Ukraine since the mass graves and atrocities on its grounds made international headlines after the Russian retreat in the early days of the war. Between the two interviews we get a good take on what is happening from a theological perspective. But they aren’t the only ones, We also run into a Presbyterian Texas pastor at his church in Lviv, as well as an online service conducted by a Russian speaking pastor who keeps his flock together online since fleeing Kharkiv with his family to Lviv.
We also reconnect with many of the young men from the first film. Young men of course have an added layer of concern to adapt to their new normal and “life interrupted-ness” that all Ukrainians experience. Young men in Ukraine live with the potential of being called into the military at any moment - and maybe even to the front lines. They are all ready.
A highlight is the return to the recently moved and reopened Match Bistro and an interview with Alex and Maxim whom we met in April 2022 when the previous Match was serving 1500+ meals a day with World Central Kitchen. We also meet up with Sasha at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. Last time we saw him he and fellow students were organizing supply donations from all over the world for delivery to front line soldiers.
In Bucha we got together again with Lyubimyr who heads up the Youth Council for the city of Bucha. The interview takes place in the same basement where he and his neighbors spent the early days of the full-scale invasion sheltering and Bucha’s occupation by the Russians. We also see how a new toilet in there will save them from having to use buckets should the need ever rise again.
All of these encounters take place with Ukraine and the war as the backdrop. This includes walk arounds in Lviv, Kyiv, Bucha, Irpin and Hostomel where sirens were expected as were the power outages.
The film ends with a bittersweetness that is Ukraine when we tour the Kindergarten basement bomb shelter and hear how the children have come to enjoy their time there. Thanks to the dedicated staff at the school whom we see singing and dancing with the little ones in the film’s inspirational finale.