With the 88th Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles approaching, freedom lovers are cheering for the Netflix film, “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom,” which is being considered for an Academy Award in the category of Best Foreign Documentary. “Winter on Fire” is an inspiring story of a former Soviet republic resisting incorporation in the new Russian empire and seeking membership in the Free World. It’s a story whose ending is still in doubt.
The trailer captures the intensity of the entire film, as a young boy is shown putting his life on the line and calling home, telling his mom, “I love you.” He did not know whether he would live or die in the face of the regime’s armed thugs, and the security police beating and killing peaceful protesters.
Vladimir Putin’s puppet, Viktor Yanukovych, had won election as president of Ukraine in 2010 by promising close ties to the West – but he secretly negotiated a deal to bring the former Soviet republic back into Moscow’s sphere of influence. The people of Ukraine were betrayed, and then revolted in a series of protests that will go down in history as the Ukrainian revolution of 2014. It is also known simply as Euromaidan, named for the pro-European tilt of the protests and the central square in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, where the demonstrations began.
The film shows people of all ages and backgrounds taking to the streets, wearing pots and pans as helmets, filling sandbags with snow and ice to make barricades to keep the regime’s forces at bay. There are graphic scenes of the injured and dead. Still, the demonstrators kept coming back, day after day. The people had nothing but will and determination to be free of Russian influence. In the end, after 93 days of protest, at least 125 people were killed, 65 were missing and 1,890 had been injured.
The American director, Evgeny Afineevsky, was born in Russia but won’t be returning there anytime soon because of the obvious danger to his life. He emigrated to Israel, where he was raised and educated, before coming to the United States. “I haven’t been to Russia for a couple of years and I am not planning to go there at the moment,” he says. “I am probably not a welcome guest there. But there are filmmakers everywhere and all of us deserve freedom of expression and freedom of speech.”
Of course, the story of the anti-Soviet/Russian protests in Ukraine does not have a completely happy ending. Putin responded with a Russian invasion of Ukraine, a struggle that continues as the Ukrainian government continues to plead with the U.S. for weapons for self-defense. President Obama has turned a deaf ear and blind eye to their pleas.
Putin’s invasion had to be based in part on the knowledge that if a revolution could depose his crony in Ukraine, it could also happen to him. Indeed, it was an opportunity for the U.S. government, if Obama had been so inclined, not only to…