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You're reading: ‘Firecrosser’: From Soviet war pilot to Indian Chief

Ukraine has never been a great movie-making nation. But nevertheless, some movies make one proud to be Ukrainian, and “Firecrosser” is certainly one of them. Based on a true story, it's well produced, it features a slice of Soviet reality and tells a fascinating story of a war hero who becomes a prisoner in Stalin's camp only to re-emerge later in his life as a leader of a native tribe in North America.

It took director Mikhail Illyenko five years to produce the film, and finally it’s about to hit the big screen on Jan. 19 in Kyiv’s Kinopalats, on 1 Instytutska Street.

A young Ukrainian pilot during World War II called Ivan Dodoka ends up in Stalin’s GULAG in Siberia for being captures by the Nazis. His close friend, also an army man, pronounces him dead to pursue his wife.

Although Dodoka escapes from the camp, his former friend turned enemy starts to hunt his as a dangerous criminal all over the USSR. Ivan disappears off his radar, and years later his wife finds out that he lives in Canada as has become chief of a native tribe.

Ivan Dodoka and his friend, who turned enemy

The Soviet delegation that visited one of Montreal’s native settlements in 1967, it was shocked when the trip leader greeted them in Ukrainian. Dressed in feathers and furs, the chief turned out to be an ex-pilot who has gone through a whole ordeal back home.

The delegation members brought this amazing story home. But, of course, despite the fascinating plot, the Soviet Union could not have a movie making a hero out of a refugee.

It took just short of half a century for this story to be turned into a movie by an adventurous film director.

“For the Soviet regime it was impossible to shoot a movie about soviet war pilot who wears feathers”, says Illenko. At 64, he remembers that reality very well, since his own directorial debut was in 1975.

The budget of “Firecrosser” was Hr 16, 000, 000. It was partially subsidized by the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine. It includes 3D graphics, special effects and all the bits and bobs you would expect in a modern movie.

Dmytro Linartovich, the actor who played Dodoka, made a convincing performance both as a fighter pilot and as a tribe man. The soundtrack made with participation of the National Symphone Orchestra and Dakha-Brakha ethnic band, adds subtle and powerful coloring to the movie.

“Sadly, until now Ukraine has not had a real movie-based hero – just losers,” Illenko says . We wanted to change this and to present to the world a real Ukrainian. This movie is about us, Ukrainians, and for us.”

Apart from Ukraine, the film will be presented in Russia and Poland, and negotiations are ongoing in Canada and USA.

Kinopalats address and screening times:
1 Instytutska Street
Khreshchatyk Metro
tel. 490-70-60
Jan 19
2:10 pm and 4:20 pm
Jan 20 – Jan 25
4:40 pm

KinoOdessa address and screening times:
Jan 19 at 4:00 pm
Jan 20 at 10:05 am and 4:00 pm

Oskar address and screening times:

Obolonskiy Avenue 1-B, Dream Town Mall, 3 floor
Jan 19 at 4:50 pm, 7:00 pm, 9:10 pm
Jan 20-25 2:40 pm, 4:50 pm, 7:00 pm, 9:10 pm

Megaplex address and screening times:

Moscowskaya Avenu 34-B, tel. 498-48-32
Jan 19 at 6:40 pm, 8:55 pm, 11:10 pm
Jan 20 to Jan 25 at 10:30 am, 12:45 pm, 6:40 pm, 8:55 pm, 11:10 pm

Kyiv Post staff writer Yuliya Raskevich can be reached at

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