An unlikely group of Ukrainian rebels is wielding weapons instead of their usual movie cameras to right off the Russians.
The self-proclaimed “Cinematographer Battalion” includes Dmitiry Tomashpolski, a 63-year-old filmmaker with heart issues, who left his home in Kyiv Friday to defend the Ukrainian capital, according to his friend and East Village resident Ronya Lozynskyj.
Lozynskyj received a photo of Tomashpolski a few weeks ago with a pump-action shotgun – a weapon he had never used before – resting on his right shoulder and a calm, pleasant smile across his bearded face.
“They understand that they’re not your everyday soldier,” said Lozynskyj, who is on the executive board of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, based near the East Village’s Little Ukraine neighborhood. “But I think that underscores the fact that everyone is in this fight.”
Lozynskyj first met Tomashpolski and his wife, Olena Demyanenko, a director, in 2019 when her son starred in one of their films. They all quickly became close friends and considered each other family. When the tensions began rising between Russian and Ukraine in the past weeks, Lozynskyj suggested they leave Kyiv and go to western Ukraine.
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“Olana sent me the picture and said, ‘We’re not going anywhere. We’re defending our homes,’ ” Lozynskyj said.
In her last contact with Lozynskyj via Whatsapp, also on Friday, Demyanenko spoke of her husband.
“He’s extraordinary, and I love him very much,” she said. “I’ve lived a wonderful and joyful life, and my husband is my everything. I very much want to see him alive.”
Then communication went dark.
“It’s surreal,” Lozynskyj said. “I wonder am I going to walk there again? Am I going to see these people again? But I’m not surprised by people like Dmitiry. I’m not surprised by the reaction here.”