Friday, October 24, 2014

Army guns + Voting booths

These photos shocked me.

This is not the festive Freedom Square of New Years Eve. This is no longer the place where it's possible to see someone casually walking their bear on a leash. Gone are the days of Verka Serduchka and Boney M singing to a tipsy and cheering audience of thousands.

Instead, this is the new reality. This is life during war.

These photos showed up in my inbox a few days ago, along with a short message from the same friend who contributed to the previous post. His text follows in different font.

Yesterday (editor's note: August 19th) the military showed off their main firearms on Freedom Square.

Anyone who wished to could practice assembling / dissembling guns, learn to use a sniper's scope, and handle an anti-tank rocket launcher.

Donations were collected to buy warm clothes for the 92nd Tank Brigade, which is based near Kharkiv.

The army is still relying heavily on donations.

Ads like this one have been popping up on the websites I visit.

In other (and hopefully positive) news, it's almost elections time again!

Back in May I shared what the presidential elections looked like on the city streets-
May 19th, 2014: 5 days until the elections

And what it was like to work with OSCE observers-
May 31st, 2014: 5 days after the elections 

Meanwhile, in 2012 elections were pretty low-key-
October 27th, 2012: 6 things you probably didn't know about the elections in Ukraine

Except for the fact that everything I wrote about in the post below, (Communists and language battles, both topics which seemed controversial at the time but pale compared to their significance now), has contributed to today's upheaval -
October 6th, 2012: Election Propaganda in Ukraine

The US Embassy emailed out the following message this morning:

Parliamentary elections will be held throughout Ukraine on Sunday, October 26, with the exception of those areas not currently under the control of the Ukrainian government, including the Crimea region and some areas in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine.  Despite a lack of specific information concerning an increase of political unrest or provocations by groups and individuals looking to disrupt the election process, the potential for demonstrations and/or provocations during elections and the period needed to form a new government remains.  U.S. citizens in Ukraine are advised to take basic precautions and exercise heightened awareness when in public and avoid large public gatherings. There is a possibility of additional bomb threats and other disturbances, including demonstrations and violence, in or near polling stations, in public transportation hubs such as metro stations, and certain Government of Ukraine (GoU) buildings.

Like in May, I hope to have an interview published soon with one of the locals who will be working with the OSCE team of observers. Look for that in about a week, after - fingers crossed- a round of peaceful and fair elections. In the meantime, this pessimistic article is making the rounds online: Ukraine's Slow Descent into Madness. Just looking at western media, it feels like all the enthusiasm and "hooray, freedom is coming!" vibes of earlier articles have vanished. In fact, Ukraine is off the radar most of the time as the leading roles of the season have gone to ISIS and ebola.

In what is definitely good news, I met another Ukrainian this week! When we left in July, I thought "well, that's probably the end of that" but luckily, no. First appeared the Ukrainian-speaking maintenance man who is raising his gimongous Brangelina-sized family here in Portland. Then earlier this week I travelled east for work and there met a woman from that place known as The Pearl of the Black Sea. "Ah, Odessa," she sighed, "it's so different. In Odessa there's so much local pride that the city is practically its own country." I'm really happy to be able to continue making Ukrainian friends while outside of Ukraine : )

And speaking of friends, in case you missed it on the FB page earlier this week, behold Maxine's Halloween creation-
How cool is that?!

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