NEW YORK (PIX11) — Hollywood director Doug Liman is the man behind movies like “The Bourne Identity,” “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” and “Edge of Tomorrow.” But he says nothing could have prepared him for his recent trip to Ukraine.

“I make movies about ordinary people and extraordinary circumstances, Tom Cruise dealing with time-traveling aliens,” Liman said. “But nothing really prepared me for the reality I saw in Ukraine. This is not an alien landscape, right? For Americans, it’s a very modern country.”

Over nine days, Liman says he was escorted around the country by Ukrainian citizen-soldiers and some others who had joined the fighting, even traveling to the front lines.

“I embedded with some American mercenaries and then some Ukrainian soldiers,” he said. “I was dressed like a soldier because they lent me equipment to where I was bulletproof. I became one of the people while I was there.”

And it was the people he can never forget, Liman says, and their resilience and their resolve.

“Coming back from the front lines, one of the soldiers I was with insisted we stop at his mother-in-law’s house for Ukrainian hospitality. I mean, we’re in the middle of a war and there’s nothing,” he says. “And then she gave me a tour of her house. She lives in a little village and just got chickens in the back yard, two pigs and she is sewing her own clothing. And then you look more closely, and you realize there’s a hand grenade on her sewing machine because she’s been sewing pouches for grenades in her free time for the Ukrainian soldiers.”

The grandmother also took Liman to her shed where there were two cases of Molotov cocktails.

“This is just a grandmother in a small village. It just happened to be a door I walked through. You look around the village and you’re like, how does Russia think they’re going to occupy this place when babushkas’ got two cases of hand grenades.”

As for the invasion, Liman says Russian missiles are one thing. But he believes Russian resolve on the ground is waning.

“These are just kids and there are dead Russian soldiers scattered throughout the country that are never going home,” Liman says. “And they were sent there with nothing, no food, and they’re basically looting homes and villages that they’re occupying. So I learned a lot about these Russian soldiers by basically what was in their hands when they died. I’m still haunted by the image of this.”

Haunting, yes, but Liman says he took away so much more from the experience.

“I just came away with a renewed belief in humanity and that Ukrainians believe so strongly in their democracy that they are willing to die for it,” he said.

In a sense, Liman will continue to chronicle the conflict. He left behind his film equipment to those he was traveling with so that they could continue to document the horrors of this invasion now entering its third month.