A tragicomic portrait of a two-man team of sheriffs
in a remote Ukrainian village disturbed by everyday incidents and political developments.
Like a bird, the Ukrainian flag flies along perched on the car of two affable "sheriffs" deputized by the mayor of a village in southern Ukraine. There's a sly bum whose gift is not to work. There's a guy who puts an anaconda in his woman's shed.
The advent of Euromaidan, and draft-dodgers abound. Town folks are dipping
in icy water and laughing, but are they divided in their loyalty? These sheriffs are taking you along for the ride.
Victor Grygorovych (50) the "smart guy", is a former policeman. Since his youth he always "wanted to be a man in uniform running over the field with a submachine gun." He first enrolled in a military college but had give up the studies due to health problems. He became a police inspector. He solved on average 13 cases per month (two times more than the fixed norm) and travelled to distant places all over the country, including above the Arctic Circle. After the collapse of the Soviet empire, he returned to Ukraine to work as a police inspector in rural areas. Now retired, he still dreams of great criminal cases and investigations.

Volodya (44), the "strong guy", has recently started keeping pigs and is entirely focused on running his household. Two years ago his wife gave birth to their daughter Sonya, and the strongest man in the village, "the terror of hooligans", turned into a gentle loving father. He used to work as a security man at a bar and a disco club. But a year ago Volodya returned to his sheriff duties which he regards as the highest point in his professional life.

Viktor Marunyak (56) is the third-term chairman of Stara Zburjivka village council. He is the man who initiated and embodied the idea of village sheriffs. Marunyak is a historian by education, an intellectual and a patriot. During the Orange Revolution, he was a member of the security squad protecting Yulia Tymoshenko, spending the first day of the Revolution to the last on the Independence Square in Kyiv. Today he is determined to put things in order, at least in his own village, irrespective of what happens in the country at large.

Roman Bondarchuk and Dar'ya Averchenko
talk about the film
with Tue Steen Müller
Leipzig, October 2015
"At first time I met them I thought I would never find
a better casting for a fiction movie. One – the big guy - looks like Tony Soprano, the other - thin and with moustache, like Chuck Norris."

TSM: So, in journalism you have the W: who, where, when, where, why. With which W do you want to start?
RB: I'm absolutely unprepared, so I can improvise. It's my first time to think about answers to questions. I'm glad, that it is you.
TSM: All right, then the classic one, a bit boring: When did you start the film?
RB: I can tell you. And if it's boring you can stop me. I have a story behind it all. I can tell you, how we met this mayor Viktor Vasylyovych Marunyak.
TSM: Ok, he is my favourite in the film!
RB: It was during one of our dates – Dasha and me - that we met each other. I took a car, we went for some driving around Kherson. There was a huge sign on the road like "Georgievska church, 19-th century, fortress, Cossacks graves" and we were interested to find them. They were touristic signs.

TSM: How many years ago?
DA: It was late 90'es.
RB: No! (Roma says) Really?
TSM: And you were not a couple at that time?
RB: No, it was just one of our first dates… and we turned to the road to nowhere, looking for all these attractions. We couldn't find anything, so we stopped on the road to ask the way. That's how we met a local man, a teacher of history. He confirmed: Here was a fortress in the 18th century, but villagers deconstructed it and built their sheds out of fortress's bricks. He said, that this is a village of free people. It's a Cossacks' village. In the 19th century the villagers were wealthy enough to have their own bank. There was a shipyard over there – many people were sailors or owned ships and were travelling and trading all around the world. In Soviet times they never had kolkhoz, no Lenin monuments, because they lived quite remote from any central city and also because there is very little land around the village. Most of the villagers are not farmers, but fishermen. Even in the 1930'es (during the Stalinist repressions) they always had fish to eat, what made them feel like free people.
RB: Of course road signs were only installed on the big road for report: In reality it was not an attraction at all. But this teacher could tell stories. Later I got to know, that he took part in Orange revolution, left the teaching and was elected as a mayor.
DA: For me it was absolutely a discovery, that in this village you could meet an intelligent person, educated, with good brain and historical knowledge, a great speaker, philosopher and storyteller. We were two teenagers from the city and had the prejudice that mostly wild people live in villages!
TSM: Roman, why were you dating there?
RB: I just grabbed my brother's car, wanted to surprise Dasha, discover some new places.
TSM: So, you don't have any connections to these places?
RB: At that moment Dasha's parents had a summerhouse in Stara Zburjivka.
TSM: A dacha?
RB: Yes, but she hated that summer house, because you had to work in your garden or vegetable garden during all holidays. We all hated dachas.

TSM: So the teacher/mayor was the one who got you into the film?
RB: From that point on I was very interested. Imagine: In the middle of nowhere, with such stories from the past, but with nothing in the presence. Faked road sign. Some mystery was behind.
RB: The second time we met, was when we had been shooting "New Heroes" – short documentaries about ordinary people, who succeeded in a corrupted country and defend themselves from the attacks of state. Viktor Vasylyovych was already a mayor of this village and wanted to protect their land from stealing. It was a land-boom, when people from the capital started to buy the best land on the seashore, near the rivers. Of course, it was illegal, but with the support of officials from the regional center. When Marunyak stood up against officials, they first offered him money – something like 1,000,000 dollars just for silence.
He refused and was immediately `caught` with bribe and put into prison. But local people conducted a real campaign to release the mayor: petitions, demonstrations in front of the prison, it was done with passion and finally he was released! We made a short documentary about this story, it became very popular in social media and on youtube. I think this short documentary also helped the mayor to overcome this crisis after jail and go back to his work. Anyway, after we made it, we became like relatives for those villagers, as we went together with them through bad times.
TSM: So he was the man, who inspired and motivated you with his charisma.
RB: Yes, his charisma and the stories he told. He built a kindergarden, which is unusual for a village of this size. He built a good road. And in between of this and that he said: It's really hard to call police here, they never come. So, I found two guys, gave them a car, managed how to pay them from really useles points in the village budget and called them sheriffs. Now they are here instead of police.
Viktor Marunyak,
the mayor
RB: I asked him again – What do you call them? – Sheriffs, he said! – Can I meet them? – I asked.
RB: At first time I met them I thought I would never find a better casting for a fiction movie. One – the big guy - looks like Tony Soprano, the other - thin and with moustache, like Chuck Norris. I was immediately attracted and fascinated. They told me, let's go and fix some problems and it was like that. And that day we shot two episodes, which are in the film now.
TSM: Which scenes?
RB: The broken door (Let's drink!) and Kolka scene, their conversation about wife Tanya, why he had beaten her.
TSM: And you found another character Kolya…
RB: Yes, we met Kolya in first day of research. But he was like one in the row. I thought – the last thing I want is to make one more film about the bum. But at the end this bum was the one, who uncover all my main characters. Our Latvian producer Uldis Cekulis calls Kolya is "their own Jesus".
And then we made a pause for almost a year, finishing another film.
But after a year we understood that we were still attracted and still thought about them and decided to spend the whole summer shooting. It's funny - Viktor, the guy with moustache, suddenly told me something, that I couldn't forget. They have a coffin, a special village coffin, they store it in the firewood shed for poor people, who can not afford a personal coffin. The ceremony looks like this: They bring the body in the coffin to a cemetery and then just overturn it into the grave. Then the coffin waits for the next poor one. While showing me this coffin, Grygorovych said dramatically: recently I counted how many people I buried – it's about 80!
TSM: In that way?
RB: Yes, and it was said very poetically. You can't stay calm.
TSM: Which year was this?
RB: Summer 2013.
TSM: That's way how you got closer to them…
RB: Yes! The problem was also that at the first shooting day they were so open, they wanted to do their best for us, to please us, to open for us their achievements, but when they realized that we are there for longer time, we become annoying people who follow them with this boom microphone and a camera. So they started to avoid us. That was the moment where we decided to stay with them as long as we could in order to dive into their life. If we had stopped then, we would never be close to them, we would be aliens for them forever. So we moved into the village - me, Dasha and our friend and sound man Borys Peter, and started to hunt them.
RB: First I thought that they could call me if something happens, but they never called me back. The working day in the village council starts at 8 a.m. And we decided to come there at 7:45, just sit and wait. Sound man Boris was strong enough to put radio microphones on them straight at morning and he was sitting and listening, what they were talking about in his headphones. And when he heard some interesting conversation, he always pressed «rec» button and I knew, that it was time to go inside and film. Even with their «cases» and scenes in the car: When I asked them, where are you going? – Oh, it's nothing serious, nothing interesting. We'll be back in 15 minutes. Then when they are back: «Oh! It was so amazing! It's a pity you were not there. One huge man has beaten his woman…» - It was like that. After a few «what a pity» we decided to jump into their car without permission, each time they went. Soon they got used to us.
TSM: I suppose they didn't have any idea, what is a documentary. They thought you'll take an interview and that's it.
RB: Of course they thought of TV. For the mayor it was easier to show his life, to open up. It's funny, but for these strong guys the most scary thing is the public opinion, what others say.
TSM: Did they ask to see, what are you filming?
RB: No. It's interesting, but no. I made some DVD's for them out of my footage for home use: Birth of the daughter of the younger sheriff, village ceremonies, celebrations. They were quite happy, they understood that we can be useful! But funny thing about their reputation. It was Christmas. Viktor, the sheriff with mustache said: Oh, Christmas is coming, but I have absolutely no money for the gifts. I would love to buy ice-skaters for my son. I answered: OK, went to Dasha's father, took his old ice-skaters and told Grygorovych: Here is the present! He was so glad, told me, this is a perfect gift. I told him that I would like to film him skating with his son. He said: Well, OK, maybe tomorrow, and then tomorrow was tomorrow again. Ice started to melt ... I couldn't understand, why he was avoiding that. But suddenly I understood that he was afraid of falling. If I skate with my son and fall, what would others say? Not because we are filming them, but because others could see him falling.
TSM: Is that also why he didn't jump into the water in the wonderful scene in your film on Vodohresha celebration.
RB: Maybe, yes.
TSM: He doesn't want to undress himself like the big guy Volodya.
RB: Probably it's also because he is secret service man.
TSM: So after the summer…
RB: … it became easier. They were happy, that we came in wintertime, to share with us their news and fears. And when the Kolya case happened, we were in Kyiv, and sheriff called me for the fist time and started to confess by phone.
TSM: Moustache sheriff?
RB: Yes, moustache sheriff Viktor Grygorovych told me: «What else should I do, he stole a bike, I had something to do as a sheriff and now all the village hates me. Even my colleague in the village council said to me: and now you have to put Tanya into jail to get rid of her, because now she is a problem for the village. I know it's stupid and there is absolutely no reason to put him to jail, but it was how the things worked out.
RB: It was an amazing monologue I couldn't record, but I realized his thinking, he is part of the system, he couldn't understand the meaning of his work and what followed.
TSM: Is it a full-time job for him?
RB: Yes, it is.
TSM: But the big guy is also a pig farmer, so he has two jobs.
RB: For the pig farmer it's not a full time job. Officialy Volodya is like a driver for the village council, from 8 am in the morning till 3 pm. But this guy Grygorovych made his confession, trying to limit his responsibility: I'm the sheriff, I do my job, I don't care what is happening with people afterwards. At that moment something cliked in my head. I connected this drawing of Jesus. He took real peace of art, this gravure from the wall and destroyed it with the cells and started to copy it from cell to cell, without understanding the whole picture. Just drawing this line from cell to cell. I understood: this is a metaphor for what he does and how he thinks. I called my soundman and said, let's go tomorrow morning, we have to be there to catch Grygorovych in such mood and such conditions. And it was the day when he feels some regret. Maybe you remember the scene, when he is sitting on the table and says: everybody is master of their own destiny. It's the only moment, when he opens up as a person, suffering on what he did. All other episodes he is only sheriff.
TSM: Because also big guy – he told maybe my colleague did a mistake.
RB: Yes!
TSM: Even two mistakes: because you can't take this litography with Jesus. Can I do that? So, your ambition from the start was to go deeper and deeper with these two characters. Would you say that?
RB: Yes! We hoped we could find a case which starts at the beginning and leads us through the whole movie.
TSM: But now you have it with Kolya. And the other things around: Ukraine today – the small village, history, the 9'th of May, celebration Day – all these kind of things. When and how did you find out, which elements to bring to the audience to understand the social-cultural frame of these two caracters.
RB: In 2013 it was absolutely unimportant, all the political issues. All was clear – we had a dictator and a country stucked in the middle of nowhere, with a village completely separated from police. We didn't care about the context at all. We just knew this is Ukraine and this is the village, which is in Ukraine geographically, but in a completely different universe with police service and other rules, but then when Maidan came in November 2013…
RB: Of course we were in Kyiv filming Maidan and when we came back that winter after Maidan, they all started to talk about politics and Putin, fear of war, how to react to Russians – it was all about that. Our film changed really, it was really like two different films from summer and from winter. But we had the wonderful guy on the top of the tower. He is a complete freak and doesn't care about anything, so we put some radio over his «hard-working» job.
TSM: So, he was there before and during Maidan and afterwards. What is his job?
RB: In reality his job is to observe, if fire happens. Stara Zburijvka is surrounded by forest.
TSM: He was hired to climp there every bloody day to sit and observe?
RB: He is fire watcher. As he said his job is to sit and watch. And finally it's big luck to have him speak about war and army. He has being drafted. He refused, because he is in the tower- not so easy to draft him, he survived and is still sitting there. He is like a view from the top, who knows all the events and processes, which we can see downstairs?
TSM: Is he like a documentarian? Your alter-ego?
RB: We have a story with him. Once we discovered him with a lady in this small space on watching tower. I asked him, what is this lady here for? And he answers: Oh, it's my assistant, I'm teaching her to observe fire!
TSM: So, they are in the process of finding new identity.
RB: I think they will never find the new identity by themselves. It must be helped through state informational politics. At least the government should block this terrible Russian radio stations and TV-stations.
TSM: Did they ever vote for Yanukovich?
RB: I'm not sure. The mayor Viktor Vasylovych never voted. The sheriffs also didn't. But the tower guy did. On the day of elections I was filming him and asked him did you vote? He answered: Of course, for Poroshenko. I asked, why for him, there are so many beautiful new people, who have appeared after revolution. He said: Come on, everybody votes for him and I vote for him too. I said: Ok, who was your candidate on previous elections? He answered: Yanukovich, everybody voted for him, me too. So, it's like a tribe.
TSM: Is it a political film?
RB: I think it's stupid at this time to film non-political film. I have to share my vision of the country, of course it's political – I bring my vision of the country to others.
TSM: Would you say there is some message in the film? Now we are talking and you can tell me, what do you want us to understand, what we didn't understand before. When people say Ukraine, what kind of images do you have in our head? Maidan, Donetsk and the conflicts, which are difficult for us to understand. You then bring life in a village to us, is here anything here you want us to understand better or what?
TSM: The images we have when people say Ukraine: Maidan, conflict in the Eastern part, conflict with Russians, Putin, Poroshenko is going around. And what are you bringing is different or what?
A portrait of Mykhailo Hrushevskyi, first president of Ukraine (1917-1918), hand-made by Viktor Marunyak.
RB: I want to create empathy towards these people and to transfer this feeling of new times, when people try to adjust to reality by themselves. They are afraid of war, but they draft people to this war, they deliver goods and food to their soldiers, when they are drafted. I want to create live characters to connect Ukraine with them, not on an abstract but on a deeper level. For me it's about former and new thinking. When Grygorovich draws Jesus following the cells, he is just repeating lines, not creating, for me it'san image of former thinking. And the celebration the 9'th of May, Victory of Soviet Union over German fascists. When they paint the monument to Alyosha in gold while they have new war in the country. They celebrate former victory. It's absurd!
TSM: Right. This is paradox.
RB: The ritual they still follow – absurdic paradox. And my message is that we have to see that from a new perspective, come on, we have to win now! And it's all about rituals and possibility to see reality. I want them to see reality not to paint Soviet soldier monument. Come on, it's not our hero.
TSM: Well, it's part of your history, isn't it?
RB: It is. But it's also the part of our enslaving. Before Maidan we were a colony of Russia and we still are like an informational colony, still have their TV, films – it's what imprisoned us. We can't go fight with them, because we know them since our childhood as our friends and brothers. And this golden guy is also image of Russian brotherhood and they are painting him in gold.
TSM: Are you optimistic about this? Don't you think their life will be the same, as it was while Yanukovich was there? Does it matter for them, if Yanukovich rules the country or another one? Life in such a small village like this one, will it be influenced? Of course there is war and other things. But will it change anything?
DA: I think it matters what the regime stands for. Because during Yanukovich time our mayour Marunyak was kept as briber and sent into prison, a completely innocent person. It was possible at that time and a lot of such situations happened, not only to our mayor, but to many others, who defended their land and didn't want to sell it to oligarchs. And now I think there are a lot of good changes, but unfortunately the reformation of the country couldn't be so quick, because of the war.
RB: You need to believe in something. I believe they are poor, because of wrong thinking. If we repair thinking, everything will get better. There were elections in Ukraine some days ago and Marunyak won again, in fight with the pro-Russian fisher-businessman. That makes me optimistic.

Mirjam Wiekenkamp
cell: +31 6 2 865 22 49
Taskovski Films Ltd.

Irena Taskovski
phones: +44 75 62 977 143, +48 693 866 348
Directed by

Idea by


Produced by


Edited by

Editing Consultant

Sound Director & Recording & Design

Sound Engineer
Original Music

Sound Editor

Foley Artist

Foley Recordist

Re-Recording Mixer

Colorist & On-line Editor



Web-Site supervisor

Management SOUTH (Ukraine)

Management VFS FILMS (Latvia)


Our Thanks to
and all the residents of Stara Zburyivka village
More credits
The creators would like to thank for the support and advices:

Alla Tyutyunnyk
Ahafiia Bondarchuk
Tue Steen Müller
Roman Romanov
Andrea Prenghyová
Tereza Šimíková
Veronika Liskova
Isabel Arrate Fernandez
Mélanie de Vocht
Sigrid Dyekjær
Freddy Neumann
Сhristine Camdessus
Yael Bitton
Claas Danielsen
Joost Daamen
Lars Meyer
Jarmila Outratová
Eva Rybková
Anaïs Clanet
Serhiy Bukovsky
Audrius Stonys
Valdis Celmins
Liga Gaisa
Gatis Belogrudovs
Uldis Dimisevskis
Davis Simanis
Laila Pakalnina
Vitaly Manskiy
Rita Garnizone
Miks Ramans
Andrey Zagdansky
Igor Gaidai
Marina Stepanska
Serhiy Lysenko
Darya Bassel
Victoria Leshchenko
Olga Birzul
Olena Yershova
Viktor Onysko
Nadiya Chushak
Lyudmyla Averchenko
Vasyl Averchenko
Natalya Bimbirayte
Olena Pimenova
Ruslan Rusal
Leonid Bondarchuk
Jesper Osmund
Mikael Opstrup
Eva Mulvad
Coco Schrijber
Sergiy Stepansky
Igor Barba

Commissioning Editors:
Reinhart Lohmann and Martin Pieper (ZDF/arte)
Lars Säfström and Axel Arnö (SVT)
Anna Rozenvalde (LTV)
Junita Budvytiene (LRT)
Viola Salu (ERR)
Katarzyna Malinowska (PTV)

Archival Audio
"On the hills of Manchuria"
Written by Ilya Alekseevich Shatrov

The idea was developed at the
EAST EUROPEAN FORUM 2013 & DOC TANK 2014 workshop
IDFA Academy Summer School 2014, Amsterdam

This film has been developed with the support of the DOK.Incubator Workshop 2015

This documentary has been realized with the support of


In co-production with

In co-production with

In collaboration with
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