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What people on Maydan, Kyiv, had to say
46, a native of Kyiv
I was there, on Maydan, on the very first day when the protests began. What I saw there, what I felt being there was one of the most exhilarating and unforgettable experiences in my life. Frankly, I did not expect to see so many people who rushed to Maydan to protest against the fraud and lawlessness that those in power used to rig the election in their favour. And the number of people on Maydan kept growing by the hour. Later, there were days when there were hundreds of thousands of people peacefully protesting. Seeing these multitudes who came out in support of freedom and democracy, to stand up for their rights, and to defend their dignity filled me with great pride for the people of Ukraine. When the anthem of Ukraine was played, I heard myself joining in — I sang the words of the anthem, only later realizing I had never done it before! I was amazed at myself, at my being able to remember these words. I sang at the top of my lungs, with tears running down my cheeks. It was an absolutely phenomenal experience I was living through.
I’m sure that everyone who spent at least some time on Maydan in those days went through a moral and spiritual cleansing and purification. That nameless fear that had been bred in people who had lived in the soviet times, began to be dispelled. Those who did not believe any changes were possible in this country began to acquire new faith. Those who were sceptical began to see that ordinary people did have a power to influence the course of events. I saw that the protesters on Maydan were determined to be there as long as it was necessary to achieve victory. I was there with them, and so were my family, friends and relatives. We joined the rallies in the daytime, and at night we brought hot tea and food to the people in the tent city and to the protesters. We were among those who blocked the building of the president’s administration. When we saw buses filled with special-forces troops, with licence plates from other parts of Ukraine, it was scary, but we talked to these young men in uniform, trying to persuade them that ours were only peaceful intentions, that we were one people and should be united in one cause. They hid behind the drawn curtains but we saw occasional smiles. On that night in November when word spread that a special-forces attack was imminent, I admit I was filled with great anxiety — in fact, I was terrified, not so much for myself but for my son who was somewhere in the tent city, for my friends. But we did stay over the night and the spirit of freedom, of unity, of the rightness of our cause was so uplifting that I was able to overcome my fears.
I was truly happy I was part of all these events that were called Orange Revolution. My contribution, I realize, to the final victory was very small, but I pride myself on taking part and being there to the very end. I was so happy to see that at long last, the soviet legacy of slavery, of indignity and of corruption was being swept away and a new, democratic and free spirit was being born. I witnessed the clash between the dying soviet mentality and the new, young and vigorous mentality of a new nation. And it felt so great to see the new mentality winning!
We saw the New Year in on Maydan, celebrating with thousands upon thousands upon thousands of friends whose names I did not know but who were one, united family.
an inhabitant of the tent city
I come from the town of Kolomiya, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, Western Ukraine. I’m a student of a teachers’ training college. My friend and I have come to Kyiv to support Viktor Yushchenko. To give whatever help we can. We help to deliver the food that the Kyivans bring to those who really need it. I’ve been really overwhelmed by what I saw here, and don’t think I’ll be able to express what I feel coherently, but I’m happy to be here, to socialize with all these people, to be of some help. There are several groups of our students here. Some come, others leave only to have others to come to take their place. We’ve been here for several days and are planning to stay for another four or five days. But others will come to take our place. There’s always something to do, so there’s no time to be idle.
I’m here because I feel it’s the place where I should be, where I’m needed. When several days ago, my friends and I came here just to have a look, a girl from the tent city asked us whether she could have some tea. We brought her tea and struck up a conversation. I saw that some of the people who lived in the tent city looked tired and I offered my help. I was asked to come in the evening and help with distributing warm clothes that many Kyivans kept bringing. And I’ve been staying here ever since. My friends also wanted to stay and help but they could not for various reasons. But I could and did stay, and I’m planning to stay until the end, until final victory that is.
In fact I don’t live permanently in the tent city, I usually come to work night shifts and then rest at home in the daytime. Today I’m here because a friend of mine who usually works day shifts asked me to stand in for her because she had to look after her sick child. I’m in charge of distributing warm clothes and boots and hats that Kyivans donate free. Very many people ask for clothes and we give them what they want. Among these people there are not only those who take part in the Orange Revolution — just anybody who comes and asks for something gets what they want, if, of course, we have what this or that person wants. Today, for example, a boy of about eleven or twelve turned up and asked to help him. We could see that he did need help and gave him warm sweaters, a scarf, a jar of honey, a lemon and some sandwiches. It’s not only all right — it’s the way it should be. When people ask for help, I don’t ask them what their political sympathies are, whether they support the Orange Revolution or not. But I myself support Yushchenko, I want the will of the people to be heard… I’m sorry, I’ll be back in a minute… Sorry for interruption but you see that man walking away? The other day he came and asked for an overalls. We did find it for him and he thanked us and said that if it did not fit him he would bring it back. And he did. I told him to come back some time later, and that if anyone brings something that will fit him better he’s welcome to have it.
I don’t look upon what I do as a chore, or something, it’s just what I feel I have to do, I feel it’s a duty to help others. That’s why I’m here.
All the people I’ve met here are so nice, there is so much kindness and goodness. The whole place has what they call a very good aura. I can see how considerate people are, how respectful, how careful not to give offence in any way. People keep asking each other whether everything is all right, whether they could be of any help. I saw people offering complete strangers candies or chewing gum, just as a gesture of good will.
In my opinion, the events we are witnessing, or rather in which we take part, are of a phenomenal significance. They must be viewed as probably being among the most important events Ukraine has lived through in the past several centuries. I’m convinced that we will win. Those in power have two ways of dealing with us — force and money. They do not dare to use brutal force because the whole world is watching Ukraine now. And money — they won’t have any money to suppress us either. They say that you can buy everything and everyone with money but I know that you cannot suppress or buy people who are struggling for the right cause, who are devoted to it. I really can’t understand it that Viktor Yanukovych continues to hold on to power after the mass protests began — if I were him I would have immediately stepped down and withdrawn his bid for presidency after the tent city had sprang up. I would have done it even from the purely financial point of view — why waste time and money if it is absolutely clear in which direction the situation is developing. We will not be removed from here until we attain our goal. Look around, see how many of us are here, people who support the ideas and slogans of the Orange Revolution? Look at the orange arm bands, scarves and hats, look at the orange bands on the cars — and not only in Kyiv. Yesterday, I talked to a journalist from Slovenia. She was so happy to be here, she supported our cause. It was very moving.
an inhabitant of the tent city, from Kyiv Oblast
I’m here to defend my rights, to defend my rights to have my voice heard, and to have my choice at the balloting respected. I’ll do what I can to defend it. I want my vote to matter. And I don’t want those in power to manipulate the votes and decide things for me.
I help pitch tents and help engineers to operate the electric generators. I’ve been living in the tent city since November 23. I’ve come here with my friends and I have made many new friends as well. There are days when I work both in the day time and at night, but on other days I have time to rest and sleep the fatigue away. My main task is to be a sort of a security guard, to see to it that no one causes trouble in the tent city. There have been no serious problems to deal with so far, but there were instances of some trouble. But it’s all right, such things happen everywhere. Among those who truly support our cause there were people who got into it all just by chance but there were very few of them. It does take a lot of stamina and perseverance to be staying in winter in a tent, and people who really don’t belong here leave soon. I have had a lot of experience in hiking and living in rather severe conditions without any creature comforts but for people who are accustomed to comfortable city life it is very difficult to get used to life in a tent, in the cold and the slush.
I had to quit my job to come here because they did not want to give me a leave of absence, but I do not worry about finding a new job. I am a man of many trades. Yes, having a good job is important but what is happening here now is the most important thing both for our country and for ourselves. We are at a turning point now and our future depends on how things will turn out. I’m planning to stay here, at Maydan, until the time Yushchenko is officially announced the winner of the presidential election and sworn in as President of Ukraine. Or until the time, anyway, when Yanukovych and his government resign. We believe that what he has done and continues to do is high treason. He has betrayed the people of Ukraine, he has broken the oath he took when he became prime minister. He has had the election results falsified and rigged in his favour. Of course, I understand that many people want power and are prepared to go to any lengths to attain it but all the same you’ve got to do it in a legal and fair way, you’ve got to persuade people that what you do is right and good for the people but you must never use criminal ways of attaining power.
from Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast
I came to Kyiv three days before the runoff election. I did not vote because I’m still seventeen and you have the right to vote in Ukraine only when you turn eighteen. But I’m a citizen of Ukraine and I want my voice heard and my opinion taken into consideration. My parents did not mind my leaving home and coming here. They think I’ve done right to come to Kyiv and join the people in the city tent because by doing so I support the cause of millions of people, not my own personal interests. All the other people from the town where I live who have come here, were blessed as supporters of the just cause by priests in churches. Several of my friends from my native town are also here and all of us do something useful. My responsibility is to stand guard at the medical tent and see to it that order is maintained. It is mostly the public organization Pora that takes care of maintaining law and order in the tent city. I’ve been a member of this organization for quite some time now. I joined Pora a long time before the elections because I realized that I might be of help if those in power tried to rig the elections.
I want our people to be free, I want my parents to live well and free. I think that my grandparents who had given so much of their life to this country, who fought in wars for it, deserve a better life than they have now, they deserve good pensions. Yes, now many people say that Yanukovych has given better wages to the working people, bigger pensions to the retired and bigger monthly allowances to the students, but isn’t it clear that all this was done shortly before the elections in order to persuade people to vote for him? Besides, these increases to pensions and wages are only temporary, and I want to have such a president in this country who would care for the destiny and well-being of his country and not for enriching himself at the expense of the people. I want our president to be a decent and upright person. When my father was called up to join the army, one of the first questions they asked him at the induction centre was whether he had any criminal record. How come you cannot serve in the army or in the police force if you have a criminal record but Yanukovych who was convicted and served two terms in prison for criminal offences can be prime minister or even run for president? That’s no good, as people in the Land of Ivano-Frankivsk say. I believe Yushchenko is a true Christian and will be faithful to Ukraine and will serve the people of Ukraine as a good president should. I can clearly see that when Yanukovych says he regularly goes to church he is not sincere. We do remember such heroes of Ukraine as Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky or Hetman Ivan Mazepa who did their best to defend Ukraine against her enemies and wanted to see her independent and free. I want to see Ukraine to be truly independent and I want our people to be truly free. There are so many of us that no one can overwhelm us. We are invincible. I want to support the Ukrainian people with whatever I can, I want the will of the people to be respected. We’ll stay here as long as the tent city continues to sit in the main street of Kyiv.
45, an inhabitant of the tent city, from Cherkasy Oblast
I’ve been living here, in the tent city, since the very first days of its existence. I took part in all the events that took place in the centre of Kyiv, both in rain and in freezing temperatures. Somebody did bring valyanky (felt boots) to the tent city to be distributed among the people but they soaked wet on the second day. Kyivans kept bringing boots and shoes though and there was no problem with what to wear either in cold or in rain. When Yanukovych’s wife said at a meeting somewhere in the east of Ukraine that it was the Americans who had delivered these valyanky to the tent city, I couldn’t help laughing. At the same time I was very indignant — why would the wife of a presidential candidate tell such preposterous lies? She should have come here and stayed with us for a couple of hours — it would have opened her eyes.
Yes, for the first couple of days the situation was very tense, but gradually, as many journalists and then many people among the police force and in the security forces began to come over to the side of the Orange Revolution, the tension began to subside. Some of those who were living in the tent city returned home because they were sick. But several days later they came back because they saw that no decisions were being implemented, the parliament voted for the resignation of the prime minister and his government but they ignored this vote of no confidence, the same people continued to stay in power and rob the country. We came back because we want new, decent and honest people in power. And we are sick and tired of Muscovy’s pressure and Putin’s desire to make Ukraine a province of Russia. Yushchenko enjoys a much greater trust of the people than his opponent. It’s not my personal opinion — look at the results of the voting. He would have gotten many more votes if not for the fraud. Working people remember well that during the time when Yushchenko was prime minister and Yuliya Tymoshenko was his deputy, they managed to find money to pay all the wage arrears. That’s why people trust them. If Yanukovych comes to power, Ukraine will again be dependent on Moscow in everything. People make their choice because they assess the situation correctly. But those still in power, seeing they have lost the election, used fraud and falsifications to steal the victory. They did it so cynically, without even trying to hide their machinations. Everybody saw that.
We’ll stay here as long as we have to. If somebody leaves, then others will come to take their places. There are two more of my friends here with me. I have a daughter, I have grandchildren and I’m determined to stay here because I know I’m here for their future.
an inhabitant of the tent city, from the city of Zhytomyr
People who live here in the tent city have come from all parts of Ukraine. The atmosphere is wonderfully friendly and benevolent. I’ve made many friends here. I know that at least 15 couples have gotten married. Students tend to stay together, and people from different regions also mostly stay in groups, each group from each particular region, like in communities. Some people did not quite understand what they were here for, they thought it was just a good chance to have fun, to drink beer and socialize. But they were explained what’s the purpose of all this, why people come here and how they should behave. By the way, no drinking is allowed in the tent city. Kyivans and other nice people from other places are so helpful — they bring food and clothes, invite the inhabitants of the tent city to stay at their homes. We’ve been so impressed and so touched by such kindness.
We are the people, we are with the people, we are in opposition to those in power. We will support the power only when it will start working for the interests of the people. All the power must come from the people, it must be for the people, it must work for the benefit of the people and not for enriching itself. I think a new nation is being born.
I’m here because I want radical changes to take place in this country, because I feel that there’s a threat to Ukraine’s independence. Those in power have cheated, they have stolen the victory from the people. They rigged the elections, openly and brazenly. I want to sing Ukrainian songs and hear Ukrainian songs performed on the radio rather than those vulgar songs in Russian from the underworld. I’ve been living here from the very first day and I’ll stay here until we achieve victory. And our victory means that Ukraine will be truly independent. But victory does not mean we’ll be able to lie down and relax and take it easy — there’s so much to do in order to achieve our goals.
I do not live in the tent city but come here, to Maydan, every day. It looks that the Orange Revolution has sent repercussions all over the world. How could I stay indifferent and aside of what was going on? I live right in the epicenter of all the major events and was here, on Maydan, right from the start. I’m a student and I admit I began cutting school to come here. Several of my friends did the same. It was only later that the college authorities said they would not take any action against those students who did not attend classes because they were at Maydan.
I saw the tent city grow day by day as people from little villages and big cities of Ukraine kept coming to join the ranks of the protesters.
This upsurge of national and civil awareness came as something very unexpected, I had never thought our people would react to the injustice so powerfully. I had thought that Ukrainians were mostly docile and passive people and were incapable of rising to defend their dignity and civil rights. I’m so happy I was badly mistaken. I share this striving for democracy and justice. I want elections to be free and fair. I believe that it is only the people who must be the true source of power in this country and I’m here to defend my beliefs. I was among those who were picketing the buildings of parliament, cabinet of ministers and the administration of the president.
I feel it’s my duty to help those who come from elsewhere with whatever I can, I want them to know that they are welcome, that we’ll do our best to make them feel at home in Kyiv. My family and I, my friends, we bring warm clothes, medicine, and food to the tent city for these things to be distributed among the people who need them. Some of my friends in Kyiv have invited people who come from elsewhere to stay at their places. It’s almost impossible to describe in words the atmosphere of unity of purpose, brotherhood, understanding and mutual help that reigns in Maydan. People share their buoyant mood and human warmth, people are eager to socialize, you feel you are surrounded by friends only who are open, kind and affable. And so polite! Maydan gives so much positive energy. It is filled with the spirit of freedom and human dignity. It’s so uplifting!
There are many predictions as to what the consequences of the Orange Revolution will be but this revolution has already done a great thing — it has stirred national awareness, it has woken up the national spirit, it has kindled the light of hope and faith in a better future, it has sown the seeds of goodness, honesty, sincerity and striving for freedom in our hearts. And it’s a great victory in itself.
All the interviews were conducted
by Olha ANDRUSHCHAKEVYCH