Posted: 25.01.2024 17:42:00

Place in history

“Here and now. Real life is not a role. You can’t retake it…” one of the actors in the On the Other Shore film is sure. Today he serves at the Vidzy border post.

He was given a summons to join the army shortly before the premiere of the film, which was timed to coincide with National Unity Day. And while the crowded cinema halls confirmed the unprecedented popularity of the main film over the years, Andrei Dudko was packing a backpack, going to the military registration and enlistment office. The young Belarusian artist, who played a significant role in the sensational historical feature film of the Belarusfilm National Film Studio, did not even have time to experience the full taste of unexpected fame. Is everything going well in the army?


You can’t play patriotism

It’s frosty outside — minus thirty degrees. The trees along the road are covered with icy frost. Vidzy, forty kilometres from Braslav, is the extreme point of Belarus. There are only a few kilometres left to the Lithuanian border. This is where Andrei Dudko serves. The border post is warm and cosy; from the enclosures you can hear the barking of service dogs who are waiting for their ‘outfit’ to guard the state border.
And here is Andrei. The border guard’s uniform suits the slender and tall fair-haired guy very well. A charming smile, an open look — he clearly wins you over.
“How are you doing, Andrei?” we meet him with a question.
He responds with military clarity and admits, “Great! To be honest, at first I dreamed of having an honour guard company, but now I understand: the border outpost is mine! I have been serving for less than three months, adaptation, one might say, has already taken place. It is increasingly easier to cover the 10–15 kilometres on skis or on foot, which is usually included in the border patrol route. I finally learned how to navigate the terrain (although not long ago I even moved around Minsk with a navigator). I already know how to read traces, notice and record the smallest details...
All this, undoubtedly, will be useful after the service.”

 Andrei Dudko (far left) with colleagues     ANTON STEPANISHCHEV                 

Andrei is 24 years old. Perhaps another would want to last a little longer in civilian life, but he is convinced, “Military duty is a sacred duty. And let this sound a little pompous, but... Is it possible to consider yourself a full-fledged man, a defender, if you have never stood in the ranks, never held a weapon in your hands and did not feel responsible for those who are behind you?!”
I believe in this guy’s sincerity. Pride in what he does. Sparkle in his eyes. Unconcealed emotionality. You can’t play it. After all, patriotism is not a role. And today Andrei understands: personally behind him are his mother and father, who work at the Verkhnedvinsk creamery. And also many thousands of other people’s mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers. Those people who are sure: there, on the border, everything is always under control. 

Good must prevail   

“Andrei, you played the role of Jurek in the film, the son of the commandant of the Polish guard, Pan Szymanski. The character is ambiguous for me, as a viewer... The ending is also sharp: Jurek, in a fit of emotion, kills his father and the cheating girl. How do you rate: is this hero positive or negative? And how difficult was it for you to take on this role?” I’m asking a slightly provocative question.
The border guard doesn’t even think about it: in the historical drama telling about the events of 1925, when, after the signing of the Treaty of Riga, Western Belarus lived under the rule of Poland and tried in every possible way to defend its own culture, language and faith, there are no random heroes. Each image is collective and complements the overall historical picture, emphasizing the importance of national unity.
Shot from On the Other Shore film
“Jurek is a simple, naive, sensitive and even vulnerable young man. But he is very responsible, deeply devoted to his friend Pavel, in love with the treacherous Rada and does not notice the deception — he is simply far from this feeling. I didn’t have to ‘play much’ —I was like this guy myself just yesterday. Today, having put on a military uniform, I have matured, become different... Is it possible to justify murder? Of course not. But there, in the film, this is not just murder — a protest of a pure soul against evil and betrayal. Riot. Negation. Yes, Jurek, soft and perhaps weak-willed. But he is ready to answer for what he has done, and when he is offered to ‘play along’ and take part in the provocation, accusing intelligence officers from the ‘other side’ of murder, he refuses. Too honest Jurek becomes dangerous for the Polish government — he can uncover a political conspiracy.
And then a shot is heard behind the closed door...”    

Here and now

I see: Andrei Dudko seems to be reliving those exciting episodes from the script. For him, such a serious film became a new step in learning about himself and his abilities. The guy considers it a great honour to take part in the filming, and after being transferred to the reserve, he plans to continue his career in the Belarusian film industry. Moreover, working alongside famous Russian artists was not in vain — it was a serious experience.
Shot from On the Other Shore film

 “It wasn’t easy. Playing a contemporary is, of course, easier. And here I had to get into the spirit of the era... I’m glad it worked out. There was a very positive atmosphere on the set. Regardless of status, stardom and age, everyone is the same. I remember with a laugh how they cheered me on when I first sat on a horse... There was a moment during a rehearsal: I flew out of the saddle and fell. But everyone said: a very good sign for a future career! Of course, I later rehabilitated myself. As a result, I became a good rider,” Andrei recalls.
...A native of the Vitebsk outback. Parents are ordinary workers.
What brought the graduate of the Verkhnedvinsk gymnasium to the cinema, how did he manage to pave the way to the big stage? Take the path that thousands of boys and girls dream of?
It turns out that Andrei has been interested in choreography since childhood. He danced and read poetry in the school assembly hall. He was the presenter at the holidays. After finishing nine classes, he entered the Vitebsk College of Culture and Arts. Then he successfully passed the competition for admission to the Academy of Arts and became a state-funded student at the Theatre Department. He received a specialty in acting.
He was assigned to the Belarusian State Academic Theatre for Young Spectators. True, before the army he managed to work there quite a bit.
Shot from On the Other Shore film

 “I was cast in the role of Jurek in the On the Other Shore film in my second year at the academy. Interviews, castings, video business cards — the decision was not made immediately. I was very worried. And I was immensely glad to learn: I passed! For a second-year student, this is luck. My mother also cried with joy — she supports me very much. Of course, by that time I already had some experience in filming, but this role was the most significant. I hope it’s far from the last — I can’t imagine my life without cinema and the stage…” Andrei says.
Alas, our conversation in the outpost’s leisure and information room is interrupted: it’s time for Private Dudko to join his squad. My interlocutor immediately becomes serious: we’ll leave talking about movies for later. Quick preparations: white camouflage suit, machine gun, binoculars, walkie-talkie, signal pistol... A few minutes later, together with the dog handler junior sergeant Kirill Moskalenko and the Caucasian shepherd dog Tseriy, Andrei leaves behind the gates of the border outpost. At this moment, protecting the borders of the Fatherland is more important for the artist. Here and now. After all, real life is not a role. You can’t retake it... 

By Yelena Begunova