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War & Honey: Meeting the veterans of the Pavlograd Legion


In July 2021, the RPCV Alliance for Ukraine was lucky to welcome American documentary filmmaker Matthew Ritenour and a group of remarkable Ukrainian veterans to share the short documentary "War & Honey" and discuss its making. 




When Matthew found himself in Ukraine for a friend's wedding, he decided to take on a project. He ended up connecting with the veterans of the Pavlograd Legion - a group of Ukrainian volunteer soldiers who served in the Donbas to protect their homeland when war broke out in 2014. Upon returning home, they decided to participate in a Red Cross program for veterans and start a beekeeping operation.


 Photo courtesy of Matthew Ritenour 


Through beekeeping and honey production, the men not only generate an income, but they also provide one another with meaningful routine and camaraderie. They hope to expand their operation to serve more veterans and their families, and provide a tourism and recreation destination in Pavlograd. 


"We want to grow our business so we can create a rehabilitation center. Creating a workplace for these veterans is more psychologically supportive for them. It provides income for their families, which is important for those who have lost their job. That's why we decided to start up a honey farm." 

- Evgenii Novikov


 Photo courtesy of Matthew Ritenour


In what felt like a miracle of managing technology and time zones, we were able to bring Matthew - who logged in from Zambia - and several Pavlograd Legion veterans - Evgenii, Ivan, Artyom, and Maksym - together again online to discuss the film and respond to live audience questions. They talked about their goals, the challenge of creating a film across a language barrier, and even shared some funny stories.


"For me, making a film is an outlet for my curiosity about the world. The thing that I learned and that I think is really inspiring about Evgenii and these guys is that they're showing what a direct impact you can have in your local community. I hope people all over the world can relate to this story". 
~ Matthew Ritenour, filmmaker

 When the post-film Q & A session began, of course the first question that many viewers had was how to purchase honey from the Pavlograd Legion veterans. Although they conduct most of their sales in person in Ukraine, you can follow them online on Facebook. Evgenii and the others welcome visitors to Pavlograd with open arms - so consider adding it to your list of Ukrainian travel destinations! 



Photo courtesy of Matthew Ritenour.



You can watch the short film here: 

War and Honey from Matthew Ritenour on Vimeo.



If you were not able to join us during the live screening and discussion,
you can watch the recording on the RPCV Alliance for Ukraine Facebook page.