Firecrosser

Firecrosser (Той, хто пройшов крізь вогонь; also written ТойХтоПройшовКрізьВогонь, or “one who passes through fire” when translated directly) is a Ukrainian drama/adventure film from 2011. The film is based on the life story of Ivan Datsenko (Іван Даценко)—or rather, the version of his life that a comrade-in-arms supposedly uncovered. (You can’t make this stuff up, after all.)

Firecrosser tells the life story of Ivan Dodoka (Іван Додока, a renaming of the real-life character), a village boy from Poltava, Ukraine. He becomes a military pilot for the Soviet Union during World War II and attains the honor Hero of the Soviet Union. But he is taken prisoner by the Germans and then—as was common at the time—sent to a Soviet gulag when he finally returns to the Soviet Union. In a completely unusual turn of events, though, he escapes and makes it to Canada, where he becomes a leader of an Indian tribe (or First Nations, as they are usually known in Canada) that is a member of the Iroquois Confederacy.

The real-life Datsenko was, in fact, a pilot and a Hero of the Soviet Union. The official version of his biography puts his death in April 1944 (though that fact is itself in question).Datsenko was also featured in several episodes of Wait for Me (Жди меня), a program in which people search for their relatives lost during the war. Aleksandr Shcherbakov, who fought alongside Dodoka during WWII, put a significant amount of effort into researching his life—and wrote the story of his life that the film is based on.

The film itself did very well, awards-wise, and also has very good ratings from viewers. Ukraine elected it as its nominee to the Academy Awards that year, though it was not selected, and it won the grand prize at the Kyiv International Film Festival. There was a brief controversy surrounding the film when its director, Mikhailo Illyenko (Михайло Іллєнко), declined to show it at a Russian film festival as a protest against the imprisonment of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov (Олег Сенцов).

 

Director: Mikhailo Illyenko (Михайло Іллєнко)
Stars: Dmitro Linartovich (Дмитро Лінартович), Vitaliy Linetskiy (Віталій Лінецький), Olga Grishina (Ольга Гришина), Ivanna Illyenko (Іванна Іллєнко), Oleksiy Kolesnik (Олексій Колесник), Oleg Primogenov (Олег Примогенов), Viktor Andriyenko (Віктор Андрієнко)
Production company: Production Center Insightmedia
Box office take: $196,000

 

Official trailer:

 

Firecrosser

Julie is currently studying Russian as a Second Language in Irkutsk (and before that, Bishkek) with SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholarship program, with the goal of someday having some sort of Russia/Eurasia-related career. She recently got her master’s degree from the University of Glasgow and the University of Tartu, where she studied women’s dissent in Soviet Russia. She also has a bachelor’s degree in literature from Yale. Some of her favorite Russian authors are Sorokin, Shishkin, Il’f and Petrov, and Akhmatova. In her spare time Julie cautiously practices martial arts, reads feminist websites, and taste-tests instant coffee for her blog.