Cyborgs on Film: New Documentary Chronicles Donetsk Airport Battle


The Ukrainian war documentary “Spirit Warriors” premiered in Kyiv this month. The film takes a closer look at one of the key battles between Ukrainian troops and Russian hybrid forces in Donbas – the battle for Donetsk International Airport.

The premiere was attended by a number of Ukrainian veterans from the battle. Known popularly as ‘Cyborgs’ due to their against-the-odds resilience, these troops provided Ukraine with inspiration during the dark days of 2014. 

Read more: Meet Ukraine’s legend: the cyborgs defending Donetsk airport

The documentary movie features dramatic scenes from within the ruins of Donetsk   International Airport as the battle raged. Audiences are introduced to individual Ukrainian soldiers who explain the determination which saw them dubbed ‘Cyborgs’.   The epic Ukrainian defense of Donetsk airport lasted 242 days, ending when the terminal building was completely destroyed in early 2015. The film features many iconic moments. At one point, outnumbered troops sing the Ukrainian national anthem.

The film features harrowing accounts of the final stages of the battle. Dozens of the Ukrainian cyborgs were killed when the terminal building was destroyed. Anatoliy Svyryd recounts how he confronted Russian hybrid forces in order to negotiate an evacuation. He saved his comrades, but was taken prisoner.

“I suffered multiple wounds and concussion over two days. I realized I could not hold on until dawn. So I said goodbye to my wife and my son.  We should never forget the dignity, honour and  fellowship of our comrades. We should never leave our brothers for dead.”

While the defense of Donetsk airport inspired Ukraine, but is also added to the nation’s trauma. The audience can see the toll the battle of Donetsk airport took on the defenders themselves. 

Documentary filmmakers Tetyana Kulakovska and Anna Martynenko hope the film will preserve the memory of Ukraine’s Donetsk airport heroes. They have already recorded a total of 6 films about Ukrainian soldiers serving in the current conflict. This is the first to be released to the public.

“We initially saw this as a one-off project. But as we began talking to soldiers, we found there were a huge amount of stories that needed to be told. We are currently working on 6 film projects.  Spirit Warriors is the first to premiere but it is just the start.”

“Spirit Warriors” has already been included in Ukraine’s State Cinema Archive and will be screened across the country. The people behind the documentary hope it will introduce audiences to the people behind the legend of the Ukrainian Cyborgs of Donetsk International Airport.

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