Sunday, December 8, 2013

Euromaidan update

The streets of Kyiv, December 8th.
People from around the world have been asking what it's like in Kharkiv right now. The capital (Kyiv) has been action-packed for almost 2 weeks: protesters have occupied government buildings, special police forces are in the streets, the Kyiv Post newspaper is providing continuous updates.

This is Майдан Незалежності, Kyiv's Independence Square, on December 6th:

And to compare, here's Площа Свободи, Kharkiv's Freedom Square, on December 7th:

Still closed to the public. Ribbons like this one have been tied to sections of the fence. They read "We are Europe!"
I've seen a few pictures of protesters here in Kharkiv on social media. There was a "rock concert for change!" in Shevchenko Park several days ago. But really, for the most part, it's quiet. It's business as usual.

Last night we went to see Дон Жуан (Don Juan), a musical at the Madrigal theater. As you can see below, it was a full house. The actors were given a standing ovation at the end of the show. Afterwards, people lingered in the lobby, chatting about their favorite parts and admiring the cast photos.
We put up our hoods to combat the falling flakes and walked down Sumskaya street to where Gorky Park had been transformed into a winter wonderland. Families walked past us with tottering, snowsuit-bundled babies. Teenagers chased each other with snowballs. Park employees swept snow off the park benches (although surely no self-respecting female would sit on such a cold surface for fear of harming her reproductive organs ;p).
A ёлка (Christmas tree) was already in place, much to the delight of the younger generation.
In our group- an evenly-divided mix of locals and foreigners- the topic of Euromaidan didn't come up at all, nor did we hear anyone discussing it on the street. In my classes this week, most seemed apathetic when I brought up the events in Kyiv. "It's just the same old thing", I heard over and over again.

That's not to say everyone in Kharkiv feels this way.

The woman who sells us fruits and vegetables at the market said that while she believes the situation needs to change, the differences of opinion are vast. Vast enough that she fears for a civil war. She felt that while the western half of the country has been in the streets protesting, the eastern half has been doing all the work needed to keep the country running, a sentiment that I've heard expressed from others too.

Several of my friends who are extremely pro-EU have left Kharkiv to join the action in Kyiv. Their social media pages are filled with epic photos and rallying cries. Some have not been able to go or not chosen to go to Kyiv and have instead changed their profile pictures to some combination of the Ukrainian flag and/or EU flag as a show of support. The remainder don't voice their opinions online and continue to post pictures of exotic beaches, fashion, and funny babies.

An intrepid friend and former student named Denis has been in Kyiv for several days and has agreed to share the sights with us.
This bus probably carried protesters from the western cities of Нетішин and Славута.

The current temperature in Kyiv is 1°C / 33°F. Imagine camping out in that kind of weather!
But people do find ways to keep warm.

These stickers read "heating", "warm clothes", "kitchen" and "living quarters". This building is the Kyiv City Council and has been occupied for almost a week.

What about food?

Volunteers have been handing out food and drinks.
Or you can make your own!

And everywhere, so many people.

To quote Denis quoting Eminem: I never woulda dreamed in a million years I'd see / So many motherfuckin' people, who feel like me / Who share the same views and the same exact beliefs / It's like a fucking army marching in back of me

Although the situation is tense, there are still some smiles to be found:

Remember Kharkiv's Christmas tree? The one behind the fence in Freedom Square in that blurry picture at the beginning of this post? Kyiv's tree would probably have looked similar, but this year it's been claimed by the protesters:

The tree's branches were used elsewhere to help build a barricade.

The battle cry today is for "The March of a Million". I'm not sure if a million people have turned out for the event, but it's a safe bet that the streets of Kyiv continue to look very different than the empty streets of Kharkiv.

Monument to Founders of Kyiv

And if you see Denis on the streets of Kyiv, be sure to say hi and tell him he takes awesome photos!
Thank you, Denis!


  1. Great photos, good to see an up-close view of what's happening! (Plus, the dropped in Eminem lyric is nothing to scoff at.)

  2. Hello, Just found your blog by accident - some great posts!

    Have you read, Among the Ukrainians? There are several chapters about the city in the book.

    1. Hi Peter! I'm happy you found me, thank you : ) Unfortunately no, I haven't read that book... yet. It's on the "to read" list since I've had to abandon hard copy and switch to Kindle after coming here. Have read several of the blog posts on the site and really enjoyed them! You're the author, right? Any chance you'll be offering a Kindle version soon? I have an upcoming post on books about Ukraine and would love to include Among the Ukrainians.