After last Thursday’s signing of the Minsk Agreement by France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, a ceasefire comes into effect in east Ukraine this weekend. Everybody hopes that the parties will respect the agreement, but there is no certainty that will happen. According to news agencies, there were as many as eleven deaths on the Ukrainian side in the hours immediately after the signing in Minsk.
Since the revolution on Maidan Square in Kiev, Europe has officially sided with the Ukrainian government. But the situation in Ukraine has turned out to be difficult. Sections of the pro-Russian population rose up in protest, first in Crimea, then further east. And the shooting down of Flight MH17 finally put the civil war here firmly on the map.
We see traces of the war on the faces of the sister and grandmother, who are left totally helpless
The real victims in this conflict are the people of eastern Ukraine, for example in the independent province of Donetsk. Because we know very little about how the war affects their daily lives, film-maker Jean Counet and his wife Natalija Gnezdova made a short film specially for De Correspondent in which he captures ‘everyday life.’
He does that in a remarkable manner, by making us aware of the distance between us in western Europe and events in eastern Ukraine. The film shows an older woman in Latvia, who gets in touch with her sister and daughter in Donetsk through Skype.
What follows are two intimate conversations, larded with images of their existence, which create an alarming portrait of the war. For months the family has lived in basements – without work and often without electricity and water, because the Ukrainian army has systematically bombed such elementary services. Dogs howl in fear as a bombardment draws near. We see traces of the war on the faces of the sister and grandmother, who are left totally helpless.
And so the film is not only about the people of Donetsk, but also about us, the viewers far away, powerless in the face of this violence.
Translated from Dutch to English by Billy Nolan.