Think Freedom: The Mayor

Watch the trailer of Think Freedom documentary portrait from Ukraine
Think Freedom:  The Mayor, Volodymyr Petrovych Shmatko, Ukraine
© Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom


Everyone calls him Petrovych. Using the patronymic is a sign of respect around here, but I seem to recognize another note in the manner of their speech. Expectation. Expectation that a plea would be understood, that a trespass would be forgiven, that a problem would be solved. Everyone has the Mayor's phone number, so everyone calls. He is their rock, their salvation, their scapegoat if necessary.

The job of Mayor of a Ukrainian town in the middle of an incomprehensible war is impossible. Yet every day people wake up, wash their faces, look in the mirror and go do it.

Watch the Trailer of ‘Think Freedom: The Mayor’ now. The full documentary is coming up. Stay tuned. 


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© Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom

As the Sun rises on the morning of October 10th, 2022, Ukraine's prospects look bright, despite the war. A major counter-offensive has liberated Kharkiv Oblast, Kherson City awaits the imminent arrival of the AFU, the Kerch Bridge is in flames and the collective West is falling over backwards promising "whatever it takes".

By the evening of the same day, large portions of the country would be plunged into darkness without heating or hot water, while terrorized Ukrainians would be left wondering how they will make it through the winter. The Russian Federation has begun its vicious assault on normal civilian life. All the while readying masses of mobilized Russian men for the relentless, gruesome human wave assaults of Eastern Ukrainian towns.

Think Freedom:  The Mayor, Volodymyr Petrovych Shmatko, Ukraine
© Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom

Year and half after that day in October, much has changed. Yet one thing remains the same - Ukrainians have not much choice but to fight. The fight is not just at the front, but in every attempt to live a normal life under the constant threat of bombardment and heartbreak.

In this film we revisit that day in the fall of 2022, to seek the source of the resilience and strength of free citizens who have freely chosen one man to lead them through the darkness - their Mayor.

Mayor Volodymyr Petrovych Shmatko has been the mayor of Chortkiv since 2015. Before winning his first election, he had made the journey from the streets of the Maidan Revolution of Dignity to the trenches of Donbas as infantry unit commander.


The documentary portrait is part of “Think Freedom” documentary series of Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. It embodies the core liberal principles of freedom, choice and responsibility. The overarching theme is the main characters‘ self-determination to pursue freedom by overcoming challenges in the shrinking spaces of their democracies.

Our heroes are inspiring freedom ambassadors and liberal multipliers from all walks of life from activism, civil society, politics, law, arts, and more. So far, we have featured characters with a focus on East and Southeast Europe from Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Germany. 


The Director: David Djambazov is the Film Director. He is a long-time collaborator of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, especially on our Think Freedom documentaries. His endeavours are fueled by curiosity and a firm belief in the importance of free will. In addition to film-making, he is deeply interested in science.

The Producer: Tanuki films is an award-winning boutique production team focused on documentary filmmaking, journalism and interactive storytelling. ‘Think Freedom’ series is a successful creative collaboration between Tanuki and FNF. Since their founding in 2011, tanuki have created and worked on a number of documentary campaigns, investigative journalism segments, advertising and film projects. Tanuki work with a team of visual storytellers with a wealth of experience and a passion for cinema, which they transform to serve the social and brand stories they tell. After winning the 2015 Open Data Expo Hackathon, their latest passion is data journalism and particularly stories that combine data visualization with documentary storytelling. 

Director of Photography: Ivan Nikolov is Director of Photography and has worked on almost all episodes of Think Freedom. By education,he is an artist - but for over 20 years now, he has been using the camera as a means of expression. His interest in people naturally led him to documentary filmmaking. ‘It is exciting to meet different people, to tell their stories, to travel, and to learn about life through these encounters. After each project, my world becomes larger, deeper, and more exciting.’ shares Ivan. 

"Our filming period coincided with the first massive air attack against Ukraine, which aimed to destroy the infrastructure and disrupt the power supply. I remember lying in the hotel one evening - there was no electricity, no water. The city was quiet, and air raid sirens followed one after another. I felt despair and hopelessness. What saved me was the thought that in a few days, I would leave - but these people remained, these people went to the front lines and stood up to defend their homeland. I thought, how strong must their sense of identity and patriotism be to sacrifice their lives for freedom. I wondered - would I do the same to defend Bulgaria."


Ivan Nikolov, Director of Photography, Tanuki Films, Bulgaria