Thursday, February 20, 2014

February 20th in Kharkov

Today I'd planned to share a post on the Vietnamese community in Kharkov, but it just doesn't seem appropriate right now.

Chaos has begun to engulf the nation.

Kharkov, which had previously been passed over by most of the violence, is now showing signs of falling into the maelstrom.

It's so hard sometimes to know what's real and what's not; people say one thing, the media says another thing, and the government might say something completely different. The truth can't always be confirmed. Sometimes you can only trust what you see and hear yourself.

It's shocking that in just 20 months, Ukraine went from Euro2012 to EuroMaidan.

From this-
2012 UEFA European Championship  picture from

to this.

The streets of Kyiv, February 2014

I don't want to spread half-cocked rumors or fear on the internet. There are other people and organizations out there with analyses and breaking news and hard facts (although whether you can trust them or not is another matter). I don't know what's going on, I only can tell you about the things that have happened yesterday and today in my little world.

We played Scrabble yesterday. One friend apologized, saying he wouldn't join us as he was taking part in a protest to prevent forces from heading to the capital. Things turned ugly, of course. He wrote later on the vk social network: I left for work half an hour before the crackdown. It was horrible - the riot police was beating the peaceful protesters up, from the other side thugs, armed with baseball bats, attacked as well. They were chasing people everywhere. Thanks God, my girlfriend and her mom were able to hide inside the metro.

Then during classes last night, another friend sent me a text: Are you okay? I heard there'd been a shooting in your part of the city.

That text made me a bit antsy about the walk home from the metro but what was more worrisome was the group of young men hanging underground near the metro doors. They were about a dozen guys, all squatted low to the ground, not talking, giving off a really bad vibe. I didn't manage to get a good look at them as they seemed incredibly hostile, like they were waiting for trouble... but willing to wait patiently for it only so long.

Although the death toll in Kyiv has continued to rise, business went on as usual in Kharkov this morning. I went off to class and heard not a whisper about any of this in the metro... but things were different after class. At both metro stations I saw long lines near the ATMs and bank windows (this was around 2 PM). The supermarket down the road now has an unusually-full parking lot. And D just emailed from work with this: I tried calling you because I've heard that something is going on with the metro. I don't know about food. I think we should get a bunch of basics such as gretchka, sugar, etc. I'll come home earlier so we can shop. I don't want you to go alone. We should go together.

As I've written this post, the online forums have started to discuss these long lines near the banks and what it could mean for the country.

Two separate emergency vehicles have gone by the apartment, sirens blaring.  

A friend near Kyiv sends a Facebook message: everything is so scary and I can hardly stop crying.

Let's just hope the darkness means dawn is coming soon. 


  1. While there is life, there is hope.

  2. Following the news from Ukraine is just so horrifying. While I only spent a month there, I have friends who live there and I just can't look away. (Of course what little of it that appears in the US news is incredibly simplistic and not overly informative.) Please keep posting about your experiences during all of this, as I'm trying to follow what's happening with average Ukrainians and expats as well as those involved in the protests. Be safe! (Probably a good thing I am not there, because I would be risking getting shot for photos.)

    1. Thanks for your comment. Today things look okay... they may have come to an agreement? I'll keep posting, you can count on that!

  3. It really is unimaginable that things went so bad, so fast. I'm keeping you in my thoughts and hoping Kharkov stays relative safe.

    1. Thanks, Polly. Btw, your Darth Vader ice cream picture really made my day : )

  4. im an aussie planning to come to kharkov to teach and live after reading your posts. i hope you are all safe


    1. Nice to hear from you, Nicolas! Kharkov is really a great city. I wish you all the best with your teaching plans : )

  5. I hope you are enjoying your time, but try to stay safe. Ukraine is a dangerous place and the protests don't seem to be ending anytime soon. There has been over thousands of injuries.