As "Nine Month War" reveals, Jani is an only child whose father died five years ago. He isn’t yet a man, and is basically still a happy and playful boy about to marry his fiancé. But he goes to war for the required nine months, leaving behind his worried mother, who naturally suffers and wants him home safe, and his fiancé too will agonise while he is away.

László Csuja, a Hungarian, tells Jani’s story in this fly-on-the-wall documentary, which premiered at this year’s Sarajevo Film Festival in August, where it won the Special Jury Prize. The film switches between the family enjoying life at home in the village before Jani goes off to war, and his mobile phone footage at the front.

When he comes home on leave, he tries to have his stay extended by getting an unwarranted doctor’s certificate, but instead angrily heads back to the fighting after arguments with his mother, who sees he has become more foul-mouthed and aggressive. In a traumatic moment, Jani’s pal is killed next to him on the battleground, but Jani emerges from the war unscathed, in body at least.

Despite "missing Mum", Jani’s war, it transpires, is a fight for his own independence and adulthood as much as it is against the evil forces of Russian aggression in fomenting unrest and backing separatists. After his discharge he is a disillusioned young man, still coming-of-age, laying on the sofa watching the material he shot on his phone, bored and unsure about the future.

"Nine Month War" was shown at the Centre of Ukrainian Culture and Documentation in Budapest this October 2018 as part of the "Focus on Ukraine Month" organised by the Embassies of Canada, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Ukraine has its internal issues - hence the civil unrest five years ago - but dealing with the ugly worldview of Russian President Vladimir Putin is something else entirely. His is a black regime criticised for conniving in the murder of journalists and opponents, both at home and on foreign soil, and of rigging elections, imprisoning dissidents and wanting to unilaterally alter the boundaries of Europe by force. Not to mention interfering in other countries’ elections too.

Ukraine’s Ambassador in Hungary, Liubov Nepop, said at a screening of "Nine Month War" that she was sincerely grateful for the heroes who have been defending her country against Russian aggression, and she offered her condolences to the families of those who sacrificed their lives in this battle.

Ambassador Nepop said that in her opinion the film reveals their and the country's pain, as well as dignity. "There is no difference if you are of Ukrainian, Hungarian or other nationality, if you are rich or poor, when your country is in war."

She said to remember that the illegal annexation of Crimea from the beginning was organised by Russia and implemented by the Russian army. The so-called referendum had been held at Russian gunpoint despite the protests of Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians.

The ambassador said more than 10,000 people have died in the war with Russia. There are 1.8 million internally displaced persons and about 150 Ukrainians are in prison on the non-controlled territory of Donbas, occupied Crimea and Russia. In the east of Ukraine are Russian soldiers and the most modern Russian weapons.

The answer would be international support, including weapons for defence and political and sanctions pressure on Russia. "Every time I watch this film I hope that it will be another end," she said. "I hope that like in a fairytale in one minute Crimea and Donbas will become again a peaceful and happy part of Ukraine. I am sure that my dream will become true. But I need your help to make it happen faster."


Meanwhile, the malevolent reign of Putin continues, with the latest in a number of deadly incidents occurring in March 2018 when Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military officer and double agent for the UK's intelligence services, and his daughter Yulia Skripal were poisoned in Salisbury, England, with a Novichok nerve agent known as A-234, according to official UK sources. After weeks in critical condition, they eventually regained consciousness.

In March 2016, the Washington DC medical examiner's office confirmed that former Russian press minister Mikhail Lesin died of "blunt force trauma to the head". Lesin, who founded the English-language television network Russia Today, was found dead in a Washington, DC, hotel room in November 2015. Before his death, Lesin was reportedly considering making a deal with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to protect himself from corruption charges.

For years, Lesin had been at the heart of political life in Russia and would have known a lot about the inner workings of the rich and powerful. He isn't the only person linked to Putin's government that has died in violent or mysterious circumstances. Here are some of the other critics of Putin - a former lieutenant colonel of the Committee for State Security (KGB) and ex-head of the Federal Security Service (FSB) - who've ended up dead:

Alexander Litvinenko
Litvinenko was a former KGB agent who died three weeks after drinking a cup of tea at a London hotel that had been laced with deadly polonium-210. A British inquiry found that Litvinenko was poisoned by FSB agents Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, who were acting on orders that were "probably approved by Mr Patrushev and also by President Putin". Litvinenko had accused Putin of, among other things, blowing up an apartment block and ordering the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

Anna Politkovskaya
Politkovskaya was a Russian journalist whose book "Putin's Russia" accused him of turning his country into a police state. She was murdered by contract killers who shot her at point-blank range in the lift outside her flat. Five men were convicted of her murder but the judge found that it was a contract killing, with USD150,000 paid by "a person unknown."

Natalia Estemirova
Estemirova was a journalist who sometimes worked with Politkovskaya. She specialised in uncovering human-rights abuses carried out by the Russian state in Chechnya. Estemirova was abducted from outside her home and later found in nearby woodland with gunshot wounds to her head. No one has been convicted of her murder.

Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova
Human-rights lawyer Markelov represented Politkovskaya and other journalists who had been critical of Putin. He was shot by a masked gunman near the Kremlin. Journalist Baburova, who was walking with him, was also shot when she tried to help him.

Boris Nemtsov
Nemtsov was a former deputy prime minister of Russia under Boris Yeltsin who went on to become a big critic of Putin - accusing him of being in the pay of oligarchs. He was shot four times in the back just yards from the Kremlin as he walked home from a restaurant. Despite Putin taking "personal control" of the investigation, the killer has not been found.

Boris Berezovsky
Berezovsky was a Russian oligarch who fled to Britain after he fell out with Putin. During his exile he threatened to bring down Putin by force. He was found dead at his Berkshire home in March 2013 in an apparent suicide, although an inquest into his death recorded an open verdict. Berezovsky was found dead inside a locked bathroom with a ligature around his neck. The coroner couldn't explain how he had died. The British police had on several occasions investigated alleged assassination attempts against him.

Paul Klebnikov
Klebnikov was the chief editor of the Russian edition of Forbes. He had written about corruption and dug into the lives of wealthy Russians. He was killed in a drive-by shooting in an apparent contract killing.

Sergei Yushenkov
Yushenkov was a Russian politician who was attempting to prove the Russian state was behind the bombing of an apartment block. He was killed in an assassination by a single shot to the chest just hours after his political organisation, Liberal Russia, had been recognised by the Justice Ministry as a party.

Pyotr Verzilov
Not dead yet but almost after the Pussy Riot man was apparently poisoned this September. He was flown to Berlin for treatment and recovered.

Putin denies any involvement in these happenings, as he denies being the richest man on planet Earth. Still, he naturally lives and travels in exquisite splendour, with a collection of sumptuous residences and a fleet of four flying palaces that take him to those countries which will still have him (such as Hungary) and mean he doesn’t have to risk Malaysian Airlines.

László Csuja was born in 1984. He graduated in Scriptwriting from the Hungarian Academy of Film and Drama. His short films have been screened at film festivals across Europe, among them the Tampere and Edinburgh International Film Festivals. He attended, among others, Talents Sarajevo, the Berlinale Talent Campus and the Aristoteles Documentary Workshop. Csuja’s first feature-length fiction film, supported by the Hungarian Film Fund, is in post-production.

"Nine Month War" trailer:

Loading Conversation

"The Hippie Trail: After Europe, Turn Left" by Robert Louis Kreamer (published by Fonthill)

High times on the road to Kathmandu

From approximately the mid-1950s to the late 1970s, young Europeans seeking adventure took the…

Jokes about communism no laughing matter

Humour that made Soviets see red

Geschrieben von Alexander Stemp

Odessa, sister city of Szeged

Pearl with a cosmopolitan soul

Odessa is the top tourist destination of the Black Sea and the maritime capital of Ukraine. Thanks…