Over the last couple of days, I’ve watched two films that give alternative views on community. One was Ashes in the Snow (2018) a harrowing account of the lives of Lithuanians under Soviet control during WWII, and the other, Aunty Sudha Aunty Radha (2019) a tale of two old ladies and the community that has grown up around them, in their village in Uttar Pradesh. The difference between the two could not be more striking. Ashes gives an account of Stalin’s Soviet interpretation of Marxist philosophy, an ideology ‘born of the mind’ (to quote my old university lecturer, Peter Miles), and Aunty depicts a community that evolved organically, centered around the needs of the two old ladies. The Soviet machine saw anyone who thought or behaved differently to themselves as ‘enemies’, and sentenced them, without trial, to slavery, torture and death in the most soul-numbing fashion – why waste bullets when you can just ship people off to the arctic circle and let them freeze or starve to death?

In Aunty, the love and respect shown to these cantankerous, yet hilarious; kind, yet stubborn, old ladies formed a community whose initial intention was to support the old women, but resulted in a community which supported one another, sharing resources and was based on love. Ashes showed a society based on suspicion and fear, controlled through violence and a sickeningly brutal inhumanity.

The Soviet machine was devised and run by men, the two Aunties community evolved around the needs of women. One was driven by ego, the other driven by love; and therein lies a whole universe of difference.