Filmmaker Isabel (21) records the turbulent life of Ukrainian refugees in Drenthe

Isabel Koens from Sleen made a documentary about three young refugees from Ukraine in the municipality of Coevorden. The filmmaker from Drenthe shows how they live here in Drenthe and whether they have a future in our province.

The 21-year-old Koens spent a month with her Ukrainian peers and collected unique footage. In the documentary Volya, the Ukrainian word for freedom, give them a glimpse into the current lives of Yana (18), Julia (21) and Sasha (23). Yana is staying with a host family in Coevorden, Julia is staying at a reception center in Gees and Sasha is staying in Sleen.

The choice for young refugees was a conscious one, says Koens. “I’m still young myself and I’m busy with choices that influence my future,” explains the journalism student. “What about when you have fled? What do you choose and what do you pay attention to? I am very curious about that.”

It is still difficult for her to comprehend what is going on in Ukraine right now. Partly for this reason, she chose to visit refugees and make a documentary about them. “I find the war intriguing, and that this can still happen in this day and age. I was very preoccupied with the question of what I would do in such a situation. War is not something I know. For me, May 5 counts, Liberation Day.”

Koens saw how the foundations under the lives of the refugees were knocked away by the war. In the film, the Drenthe shows how they try to recover. The question of whether they will ever be able to go home is also relevant every day.

The documentary maker came into contact with the Ukrainians because she knew that in Sleen, where her parents still live, refugees are taken care of in the church. “The church forwarded me to the municipality, and she put me in touch with location managers who are in close contact with the refugees. That’s how the ball started rolling.”

In Volja, family members of Sasha also speak, as does Yana’s host mother. Frank de Jonge is interviewed for the practical side of the story. He is director general of the Ukraine Directorate of the Ministry of Justice and Security and explains what rights Ukrainians have in the Netherlands.

During the recordings with the Ukrainians, she discovered many similarities with Drenthe. “Just like us, they are sober and realistic. One day Yana wanted to call her mother, but she didn’t answer right away. She then told me that she always takes into account that she is dead. Very direct. She immediately said where it was got up.”

Koens also learned an important lesson from the time with her peers. “It is important that you realize, compared to the refugees, what you have yourself. It does not mean that they are pathetic, but it is something to think about.”

The documentary Volya will be broadcast on TV Drenthe on Saturday at 5.30 pm and then repeated every hour.

Watch the promo below: