As Ukraine has consistently been in the headlines for the past year, the Ukrainian Film Club at Columbia University hosted a very special screening for the public this Wednesday of a documentary called Brothers in Arms: Stories from the Front Lines of the Russian-Ukrainian War.

The representatives of the EQUITES Humanitarian and cultural fund, Constantin Mohilnik and Yaroslav Ovsiienko, came straight from the front lines of Ukraine, which in recent weeks have become increasingly volatile and unstable, to New York City to share their documentary with anyone willing to watch and witness the struggle going on in their country of Ukraine. New York City is home to a very large Ukrainian community and the Ukrainian Film Club is the only film club of its kind in America.

This was in fact a very unique opportunity for anyone to learn more about the current conflict, now referred to as a war, going on in Ukraine from people that have spent time with the Ukrainian army and the civilians affected by the violence. Professor Yuri Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Film Club, introduced the filmmakers by noting that it is indeed very rare to have such a chance to interact with people that have filmed and gone through something that is front page news everyday.
Mohilnik began by saying that he had never been a part of any war and that this experience was very new for him. He explained that his main objective was to film the progression of human behavior under the conditions of war. The film evolved into a documentary featuring many different stories from many different people coming together like puzzle pieces to form one important and historic narrative.

Serhiy Lysenko, Constantin Mohilnik and Myroslav Gai, spent many months documenting the people of the war in Ukraine: soldiers, civilians, volunteers, and journalists. The filmmakers explained that although they are not opposed to also documenting the people that are waging the war on their country, the Russian-backed terrorists, it is extremely dangerous and time and time again the terrorists have proved that they do not want journalists, filmmakers, or any media other than their own on what they consider to be their territory.

Mohilnik and Ovsiienko offered the audience insight into the war that no news agency or newspaper could ever give them. Through a camera lens, the filmmakers saw how in the span of a year the people of Ukraine changed. People that just six months ago were ordinary civilians – writers, accountants, tractor drivers – independently organized themselves into groups of volunteers to aid the war effort, and not just militarily. The war has engulfed their lives but it is because of people like them that Ukraine is able to stand its ground to this day.

The film itself was shown as a series of clips which featured diverse subjects. The clips were stark and otherworldly as the audience watched a tank poignantly named “Angela” emerge from a ditch in the middle of a field, men wearing jeans and old sneakers building an armored tank as if they were just hanging out in a garage, and a man pulling out a missile shell from his apartment that had been struck by shelling as if he were just taking out the trash. These are the realities of war, unaltered and unfiltered.

The clips are available for anyone to watch on YouTube and the full-length documentary film is currently in progress.

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