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Tina Cintron, an American artist, tells her story of the Orange Revolution;
e-mails from friends and readers

 

 

The clock is striking twelve noon. It is Sunday, January 23, 2005. No snow, mild wind, no rain. Our Khmelnytsky Square is set up for the public broadcast of Mr. Viktor Yushchenko becoming President Yushchenko of Ukraine.

In Kyiv about one million people have gathered in and around Maydan (The Main Square).

This is an historic event.

For the first time in modern history Ukrainians have spoken out against what they believed to be an unjust and corrupt election, with no violence, and with the legal majority rightfully winning. The entire world watched and participated in this election, this revolution.

 

The Verkhovna Rada hall is filled. There are representatives from The United States, Canada, Poland, France, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Azerbaijan, Netherlands, NATO, Belgium, Belarus, Russian Federation, Japan, Arab Republic, China, Macedonia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Bulgaria, Serbia, Tajikistan, Switzerland, Israel, Germany, Iran, Georgia, Spain; it would be easier to list who did not send a representative.

Mr Yushchenko is walking into the Rada.

I’m crying. A hard fought battle of wills has been won by the people of Ukraine. I am not Ukrainian, but I am bursting with pride.

As he takes his Oath of Office the applause roars. Then the familiar “Yu-shchen-ko” rhythm-chant takes place.

There is a sort of unusual joy and sweetness as the Chairman of the Constitutional Court swears him in, with the President kissing a bible, a very old and large one, and The Constitution of Ukraine. The Chairman then presents President Yushchenko with the symbols of his Office. First, the golden necklace of Office is put around his neck — the Chairman fusses over it being exactly right upon the President’s chest. The Presidential Seal, and then the “Boolava” (It looks like a mace or a club which has been the symbol of authority in Ukraine for over 500 years) is placed in his hands, and a kiss is exchanged. This one seemed to be spontaneous and out of happiness more than being just customary.

The President reads the Constitutional Oath. He asks everyone to please join him at Maydan where he will make his acceptance speech.

The President walks over from the Rada to his Official Residence. The pomp and ceremony is short, precise, and exciting. He is relaxed as he does his part in the ceremony. The generals are short, fat and have huge bellies; the contrast is a bit comical as they each address and salute the President.

He is heading to Maydan now. The people are pressed together so tightly they can barely raise their hands to wave at the cameras. Everyone is smiling and cheering. The stage area is completely surrounded. Everyone is ready to join in this celebration of freedom. That is what President Yushchenko represents — Freedom.

What a “Holiday Season” this has been.

While Halloween was going on in the States, the first round of elections took place here in Ukraine. From a list of no less than 18 candidates, 2 rose to the top spots. These were Viktor Yanukovych — Ukraine’s Prime Minister (blue and white) and the Opposition — Viktor Yushchenko (orange).

Basically Prime Minister Yanukovych favored a reunification with Russia. His support was in the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine.

Mr Yushchenko was facing west to join the European Union. His support was in Kyiv and west of the Dnipro River.

One friend put it this way. “Yushchenko isn’t perfect. But we already know what the other guy is like and we know we don’t want his politics anymore.”

Usually, Khmelnytsky is gearing up for the New Year just as the American Holiday Season is ending. This year, though, things were tremendously subdued as we held our collective breath awaiting what we thought would be the final voting results, then the anguish over said results which left us in total disbelief on November 21st. Yanukovych had the majority of votes. The upsurge in energy usually saved for celebrating the season’s festivities were all concentrated upon making the public voice heard and the anger at being duped again by the fist that has choked Ukraine for so long. The Sud (Court) was now involved. Another election was demanded. Evidence of vote rigging was eventually proven, but at the time things were being dragged on. Every day seemed too long while waiting for recount and the Court’s ruling.

These are some things that happened before the final election took place.

University students surrounded the government building where the votes were being counted and in wry wit held up a huge mathematics table, chanting “1+1 is 2, 2+1 is 3…”

There is an expression here — “to put noodles on someone’s ears” — meaning to lie or try to deceive a person. A pile of dry spaghetti pasta began to take shape in front of one of the government buildings.

Orange armbands were being handed out at the Kyiv train station.

All the while people were gathering in Maydan, so many people. The spontaneous gathering became more and more organized and the stage appeared from where Viktor Yushchenko addressed the gathering every evening. Musical groups appeared to show support and entertain and inspire. The lyrics “Ian aaaaoi i ian ia iiaieaoe.” [(nas bahato i nas ne podolaty) “We are many and we can’t be overcome.”] were spoken and sung everywhere. It was on the radio, groups of people were singing or chanting it as they walked to the Square. It further unified the voice of the people.

Everyday I worried and hoped for peace. Would tanks be called in to subdue this occurrence? Would guns come out? Would people be arrested or murdered in the streets? This was a REAL fear. Would martial law be in place? ANYTHING could happen, right in front of our eyes. At one point tank troops were prepared to clear the streets, but then called off. Rumor has it the commander in charge of the tank division refused to go against unarmed civilians. Everyone worried what the next day would bring.

What the next day brought was more people to Maydan. More musicians and famous people were on stage with or without Yushchenko’s presence to keep the energy and spirits of the people up as well as to show support. The famous tent city was beginning to grow on Khreshchatyk, the busiest street in Kyiv. Busloads of supporters came to Kyiv from many different cities. Temporary wooden walls were erected with the name of the city the supporters had come from. Photos were being taken all the time and everyone was so cooperative. No one hid their faces. No one was rude. Hot coffee, tea and food were handed out. Kyiv was quiet because so many businesses allowed their employees to close the office doors and go to Maydan. Office workers, store clerks, senior citizens, bosses, students, you name it — they were in Maydan. When I saw the police cadets wearing orange armbands I thought the Opposition stood a better chance. Person by person the show of support grew. Some men had managed to put a huge orange banner on the outside of our train car. Orange was everywhere in Khmelnytsky and Kyiv.

Days turned into weeks. It snowed, it rained, it was so cold, but the people stayed and more arrived.

Channel 5 was the 24-hour carrier on television showing us Maydan.

Someone in charge made an announcement in Maydan, “Young people, call your parents. Don’t let them worry. Use the phones … three minutes, free of charge.” As a mom, I can appreciate that greatly.

In Khmelnytsky a huge stream of supporters walked through town to the Square. They were yelling for everyone to join them. More people did.

There was an organized labor strike and lots of people stopped work at the appointed time. This included all public transport. Khmelnytsky came to a stop for about half an hour. This is not a village I live in. It is a medium sized city.

Not all of my friends have televisions so when they came to visit we were glued to the screen as they translated things for me. Excitement grew, but so did tension and no one felt easy about life. Train travel was difficult. No tickets were as available as they usually were. (That is another article all together.) Both Kyiv and Khmelnytsky were quieter than usual and the only conversation was about the candidates.

Enlarged copies of Prime Minister Yanukovych’s police mug-shots were plastered on phone poles here in Khmelnytsky — the next day they were torn down. His list of arrests, convictions and two prison terms became public knowledge. They ranged from petty theft to rape.

Viktor Yushchenko’s poisoning was such a ghastly thing to see and to hear about. To see his handsome face so altered was shocking. It was so difficult, at first, to put this new face on the former personality. I thought of him. I thought of his wife, his children, his close people. Such a level of evil had targeted and entered into their lives. The rumors still fly. His life was definitely saved by doctors outside the country. How the poison was administered — I’ve heard too many conflicting stories, even from what was written in the newspapers. No matter how it was administered or by whom, such an outrageous act of cruelty was performed for the entire world to see. And the entire world did as the BIG news media folks converged on Kyiv.

My friends in Russia knew little or nothing and someone even asked “... how anyone could vote for a man with a face like that?”. She hadn’t even heard about the poisoning and had no idea what he looked like before and even pronounced his name incorrectly. Friends here in Ukraine had many similar stories to tell as they talked with their family and friends in Russia. It was basically a black-out in Russia of any news associated with Ukraine.

Worse yet, we heard confirmed news that Eastern Ukraine was receiving the same kind of black-out of happenings from Kyiv and Western Ukraine. I was beyond shocked. The deep reaching horror I felt gave me a tiny taste of what it must have been like in soviet times. That old joke about being a mushroom came to mind — being kept in the dark and being fed bovine excrement. Everyday things were unfolding and coming to light. It was frightening to see how people could be so blatantly manipulated and terrorized. And part of the populace wants to return to THAT?!

First-person events were related to me. Threats by police, illegal searches were made at businesses and homes here in Khmelnytsky against people who refused to support Prime Minister Yanukovych and his campaign. High ranking military officers from Kyiv told their subordinates here to tell their subordinates to vote for the Prime Minister. There were stories of gangs roving around threatening Yushchenko supporters locally and in Kyiv.

The Kyiv Post reported on police officers coming to the newspaper for help because they and their families’ lives had been threatened if they didn’t do “dirty work” in favor of the Prime Minister. They didn’t know what to do except to seek some sort of shelter with the free press.

Restaurants in Kyiv that supported the Opposition were hounded, the tax police was sent to investigate them, demanding financial reports at odd hours. The restaurants were forced to close for undetermined lengths of time. When the restaurant owners made official complaints they received little cooperation.

The genuine possibility of civil war between the Eastern and Western Ukraine reared its ugly head. My teen-aged friends were talking to me about the fears rising in them, telling me what their teachers were saying in class. Believe me when I say this fear was real and the nightmare was in the back of the minds of many, many people. Ukraine has had more than its share of war horrors.

As a foreigner I must re-register every three months at the local police station. The office I needed was closed on two separate occasions because those fellas were at the Square in support of the Opposition! “Wow!”, I thought. “And this is an official governmental office.”

One older woman vocalized her anger at the youngsters in town defying their schools and teachers, ending up at the Square protesting along side those of legal voting age. She said they were drinking and doing all sorts of nasty things. I wanted to attempt a conversation with her, but decided against it. I felt it would be of little use to tell her that those teenagers would be able to vote in the next election, that her future as well as their own would soon be in their hands as they come of age, and that it was amazing they even gave a damn about this election.

I saw what was going on in the Square with my own eyes more than once — not a drop of beer or any booze and teenagers were calmly standing chattering with their friends.

The red and green celebratory colors of Christmas were being replaced by the orange of the Opposition. Everywhere I went I saw the Opposition’s support growing as orange streamers appeared on people’s arms, in girls’ hair ribbons, orange scarves, hats, knitted caps, old and young alike had orange somewhere — on purses, car antennas, baby carriages, carts for pushing goods to vendors at bazaars, dog collars, shoe laces, and anything else that the public could see. People were chanting “YU-SHCHEN-KO” to a particular rhythm so the car horns were being tooted in the same rhythm.

I was as attentive as I could be, listening to every different opinion I could. In our local Town Square the crowd gathered and grew day by day. My friends in the States e-mailed to ask what was really going on, I felt responsible to collect as many voices as I could. Some of these USA friends had lived here in Ukraine, others had visited. Everyone was more than curious; they were concerned. They asked when I’d leave and my reply was “… in handcuffs, kicking and screaming.”

Only two people I talked to out of about 30 random contacts in different areas in the city (yes, I can be nosey if I feel something is important) were in favor of the Prime Minister. There might have been more, but they didn’t let anyone know. It made me uneasy to think that both sides were not fully free to express themselves. This made me sad.

People I know personally, who are usually meek and not of any outrageous behavior were taking time off from work or their self-owned businesses, not to watch television, but to join in this show of support physically. One vendor took her hard earned goods of coats and gloves to the Square to be donated here and to Kyiv for the Maydan group. People cooked and delivered food to the Squares. People made monetary donations. People stood in the miserable weather, grannies and gramps, moms and dads and children were in the Squares.

This is a country where alcohol consumption is cultural. Many people smoke. It was noticeable when in the Squares no one was smoking or drinking. I could suppose there was some going on but that is all I can say — supposition, because I didn’t see it taking place with my own eyes. And I did look. No one was yelling or carrying on. These collections of so many people were serious and determined to make a clear, legal statement — for themselves, to the present government, and to the world.

Every day I was worried shots might be fired. I was afraid of the instigation of riots. Word came to all of Yanukovych supporters being transported in from Donetsk. My worry grew and grew. Police forces were brought to Kyiv from other areas.

Powder kegs can ignite with one small match.

Stories and footage began to circulate. President Kuchma used rude words to describe the public gatherings, referring to them as “the crowd” which doesn’t sound bad in English, but this particular usage is derogatory. This is the leader of a supposedly democratic country using distasteful terms to label the people he has been “chosen” to govern. There were many reports on what was and wasn’t being done for Ukraine, the theft of millions and millions of dollars and hryvnyas, a return to Russian (Soviet) rule; it had President Kuchma’s and /or the Prime Minister’s “fingerprints” all over the situations. Their days were numbered. The possibility of martial law could be enforced at any moment in a desperate act for control.

 

The dominant color of the fall of 2004 in Ukraine was orange —
riot police, diplomats, and people in the streets all were swathed in orange.

 

Then one day…

Strange and wonderful stories started coming over the airwaves.

The protective riot forces surrounding the government buildings hadn’t been fed for two days, standing out in the freezing cold. The Opposition fed them — not the government leadership that had ordered those troops to stand. The now famous footage of the police riot shields being lowered when one man pleaded with them, was amazing. When the lock was cut on the temporary gate to one of the governmental buildings and the police let the gate be opened, I cried. When the flowers were placed all over the fences and the riot squad let them be, it was amazing. Flowers were sticking out of gun barrels. People were easily only a meter away from weapons. They didn’t budge. When an older woman asked one of the young policemen to not fire on the crowd he answered back, “Do not worry. We don’t have bullets.” That was amazing. One by one, incident by incident it grew more obvious many more people were for the Opposition than what the vote count showed. When the military officials began showing up on the stage in Maydan next to Yushchenko it was amazing. More and more open displays of hope and support showed up daily.

Hidden camera footage of the out-of-towners from the east being trained-in, but arriving drunk and then being sent back from whence they came, was jaw-dropping. Groups of men from Donetsk had been given money and free bus rides to protest in Kyiv for Yanukovych. The results were downright humorous. When interviewed they said they arrived in Kyiv with this extra money in hand and took off to go sight-seeing. Many of them had never been to Kyiv before and probably never would on their own.

Some of the out-of-towners actually did go to Maydan carrying the blue and white banners. They were warmly greeted by the “orange” and there was even a mutual celebration of a “blue and white’s” birthday. (I think there was some vodka there…) One of them was so happy to celebrate his birthday surrounded by nearly a million people and on national TV.

Then we heard the most bizarre televised words — from Prime Minister Yanukovych’s wife. Her appearance was a very bad idea and her speech was even worse. She said America was behind the whole thing of Yushchenko’s running for President; that there was a pile of oranges in Maydan injected with hallucinatory drugs and meningitis; that US dollars were being passed out to the crowd so they would stay in Maydan; but the weirdest comment was about the United States producing the felt boots that the old people wear (they look like giant pot-holders in the shape of booties and you wear rubber slip-ons over them. I’d never seen them before I arrived here). The poor woman looked and sounded as if she was suffering from meningitis and doped-up fruit.

Yanukovych himself went a bit nutty as his campaign was slipping down the drain hole before the TV viewing public. He said things like — Yushchenko is really Kuchma’s man and that he, Yanukovych is against the Government! Hmmm, he, as Prime Minister IS the Government. He was in panic. A poorly planned last attempt. He made himself look utterly foolish and desperate. But his support remained strong in the east.

There is a law here that states that one cannot be fired or dismissed while on leave. Kuchma put Yanukovych on leave. When Kuchma was told to officially dismiss the Prime Minister he remarked that he couldn’t because the man was on leave. Tricky stuff remembering all those little rules tucked here and there. I was impressed! Gotta make use of any loop-hole you can.

There was so much being discussed and assurances were made from both sides about Ukrainian/Russian language issues (if you do not know about this it is a most interesting topic for fiery discussion — ask anyone from Ukraine, they have an opinion about this), economic issues, trade issues and more.

I rely on my Internet service. One day it didn’t work. The Internet cafes were not allowing anyone in because all the lines were down. This was the only time I felt panic. No contact with the outside world except for the TV, I felt blind, deaf and mute. All I could do was wait. The telephone worked. Five hours later we had service once again, but I felt closely monitored from that point on. Paranoia perhaps, but my service has been strange ever since. Occasionally I cannot connect for hours. Coincidence?

Then there was a run on the banks. Over 29 million hryvnyas were withdrawn by people in Eastern Ukraine in one day. Some banks were on the verge of collapse.

Things were looking bleak with tension and fear mounting. Maydan remained cool and solid.

December 26th 2004 and the days before were days filled with extreme intensity. So much more money was to be spent on this additional election. Foreign observers had been sent. Few Ukrainians wanted to travel for fear of not being able to get home to vote. There was a peculiar silence which fell over Khmelnytsky. No one was talking about anything political, as if everything had been said and the only thing left to do was to vote. It was, again, that collective breath holding.

I was watching TV as the results were announced late at night. I’m sure the neighbors heard me yelling “YES!!!” Yushchenko had won. A promise of progress had won. The main thing for me was the people of Ukraine won through sheer stubbornness, boldness, bravery and strength. And all were alive. Maydan had no blood spilled in spite of the enormous potentiality of violence.

Worry changed sides as the present government was in very deep difficulties. Illegal things were coming to light no matter how hard they tried to silence things. The Minister of Transport committed suicide (with three bullets, but that was only what witnesses heard and the official report says he shot himself with only one bullet), many transactions were taking place as the Prime Minister/Presidential candidate put hundreds of protests before the Rada and Sud, giving more time to complete illegal transactions and transfers of monies to various parties. All of this is being exposed daily. I’m not making it up.

The daily television broadcasts on Channel 5 showed the Rada making decisions concerning land reform and illegal ownership of choice pieces of property in Ukraine. Very valuable land is/was under the ownership of either President Kuchma or his close associates and had been purchased for obscenely low prices. These men are presently under investigation and the lands will be, or have already been confiscated.

In its history, Ukraine has been invaded continually, belonging all or in part to Austria, Germany, Poland, Russia, Turkey, and the Mongol hordes and Huns. For once Ukraine is Ukraine. Not “THE Ukraine”, but The Republic of Ukraine with its citizens’ heads held high. To witness this braveness, strength, and collective intent for freedom of choice with not a shot being fired is indescribable.

When American acquaintances asked me where I was leaving to four years ago and I’d told them, “Ukraine.” — they’d say, “Where? Oh, the Ukraine. Russia.” — “NO, UKRAINE, The Republic of …” After lengthily explanation as to the fact the USSR no longer exists and how to locate Ukraine by finding Turkey and the Black Sea they would then ask, “What for?” How come no one asks “What for?” if you say you are going to Mexico, Paris, Rome, Florence, London, Sweden, even Egypt, even some whereelse in Africa. “Iconography.” seemed to satisfy them after they asked, “What’s that?” “Art. I’m going to study art.”

Most folks still don’t know what iconography is, and that’s just fine, but now they know where UKRAINE is.

 

By Tina Cintron

Photos by Oleksiy Onishchuk

 

During the session of the Supreme Court of Ukraine in January 2005, when the destiny of democracy in this country was at stake:

 

Yury Kryuchkovsky, Viktor Yushchenko’s
representative in the Supreme Court.

 

Ruslan Knyazevych and Andriy Mahera,
members of the Central Election Commission,
who refused to sign the papers which had been
rigged after the 21 November 2004 runoff election,
in which Viktor Yanukovych fraudulently claimed victory.

 

Nestor Shufrych, Viktor Yanukovych’s
representative in the Supreme Court.

 

Anatoly Yarema, Supreme Court deputy head,
reads the verdict.

 

We received many e-mails from readers and friends at the time when the events of The Orange Revolution were unfolding. We have decided to publish some of them with no comment and with very little editing.

 

Maciej Leszczynski, 21,

a 3rd year student of German Philology, Warsaw University

E-mail 1:

Congratulations for free Ukraine!!!

Hello, friends!

Hearing the latest news from Ukraine makes me glad. All Poles have stood for Ukraine and Yushchenko recently! (The whole Warsaw is orange.) I’m sure Yushchenko will win on the 26th of December.

I have been collecting German and Polish articles about the situation in Ukraine.

I have also been wearing a orange ribbon!

FREE UKRAINE!

 

E-mail 2:

Please be informed that most of newspapers in Poland were fully aware of the situation in your country and kept us informed. Thanks to all Polish TV channels we could watch live broadcasts from Kyiv, Lviv and other places. (There is 24-hours news channel in Poland where sometimes 3/4 and sometimes 1/2 of time was dedicated to Ukrainian subjects.) We learnt of falsifications and manipulations, we could listen to election observers and even could see films made by them during the election. We know about Putins or?/and? Kuchma’s attempt to poison Yushchenko!

I like very much your revolution song: “Razom nas bahato — nas ne podolaty!”(When we are together there’s so many of us we are invincible) as it is played in Polish radio and TV at least once a day, before news from your country.

But whatever we could learn about your Orange Revolution I should emphasize: watching TV even 24 hours it’s not the same as staying with you on the Square of Independence. Everyone who comes back to Poland from your country can confirm that the events he/she attended were unforgettable. So everyeye-witness’s account is very valuable.

Now we are sure that election results will reflect the will of the Ukrainian Nation. I hope foreign observers-volunteers (also Polish) will be helpful (just a little).

I wish you could have seen our orange streets. Even the Palace of Culture (built in the centre of Warsaw in the fifties as Stalin’s “gift” for Polish nation) has also orange symbols fastened on. I do wish you saw thousands of orange-dressed people gathered at meetings in many Polish cities to support your nation and heard our shouts: “Kyiv–Warsaw: the same cause”, “Ukraine without Putin”, “We will not leave Ukraine alone”. I was amazed seeing everywhere people with orange ribbons and the amount of support for your revolution. You could see the Poles and the Ukrainians who live in our country filled with emotion and wiping away their tears. And I think that you did something great not only for yourselves but for the whole Europe and above all for us, the Poles. We do have dark pages in our history with the Ukrainians, but now we have the chance to think of tomorrow with respect for each other. I also hope you will forgive our president Kwasniewski his over-eagerness during the negotiations in Kyiv, specially with Kuchma. We all hope he did not manage to sour our new relationship. It can’t be the coincidence that the first verse of your national anthem and the first verse of our anthem are similar!

I wish you much patience for coming years. Election victory is only the first step. We here know something about it.

 

 

Natalie Diana Markiewicz, 16,

a student of Iona Catholic Secondary School, Mississauga, Canada

E-mail 1

Pryvit (hello) my Ukrainian friends!

Some words about myself: Basically living a Ukrainian life in Canada even though I haven’t ever been to Ukraine. I used to go in for Ukrainian dancing since age 4 for 9 years and I’m currently playing the bandura for 8 years now.

Sorry about the lateness of my email, I’ve been freaking out trying to download all the latest news from Kyiv’s Channel 5. :-) Well since I did feel somewhat guilty I think I may have gone through a 1/100 of what you have gone through on Maydan Nezalezhnosti. :-) I went to two protest rallies. It was at the Ukrainian consulate. We had guest speakers MP Borys Wzieszniewski (who spoke at Maydan Nezalezhnosti I think on the 1st day after the elections and said “yak chlen Kanadskoho Parlamentu bachyt Yushchenka yak Prezydentom” — “How a member of Canadian Parliament sees Yushchenko as president), former Prime Minister of Canada John Turner and a member of the Polish Congress in Canada.

Also today we had a protest in front of the Russian Consulate in downtown Toronto. We covered one lane of the 4 laned street and the wide sidewalk. We had people play that song “Razom nas bahato — nas ne podalaty” and we all listened to Yushchenko’s speech and it kinda brought us all togther. I think I’ll also donate money to send it out for you, the people at Maydan Nezalezhnosti for food, clothes etc.

Anyways, I think I’ll try to attend more rallies just to show the citizens of Canada Ukraine is a well supported country :-)

Your people made it in the news all over the world and at the end I think it was worth it all. Nekhay Yushchenko peremozhe! (May Yushchenko win!)

Slava Ukrayini, Heroyam slava! (Glory to Ukraine! Glory to heroes!)

 

P.S. When I think of Heroyam slava, not only do I think of people who tried to do something for Ukraine in the past, but also all those people presently, like you. :-)

 

E-mail 2:

Thanks for the news! :-) It’s more comforting to hear it from someone who is actually living it. I really can’t use the Canadian and American broadcasters as sources. They’re 10 steps behind from what I find out from Channel 5.

I’m afraid I have go to bed now. I’ll have Ukrainian school tomorrow and my homework isn’t ready. Oh well I’ve been too occupied with the latest news. I really don’t care about grades at this point, this is a historical point of time which I can’t miss. I have to know every detailed bit. :-)

E-mail 3:

I have my vyshyta sorochka (embroidered shirt) and an orange ribbon with a YUSHCHENKO pin inside

Ura! (Hurrah!), Klychko won. :-)

 

 

Simon Bennett, 41,

London

E-mail 1:

I’m working for a leading Reinsurance company. I’ve got a degree in history and have always had something of a passion for Eastern Europe. I love travelling and have really enjoyed rediscovering the other half of Europe that was closed off for so many years. I first visited the Ukraine in 2003 when I spent some time in Lviv and then visited Kyiv this year. I am impressed by Ukrainians enthusiasm and determination to become a modern democratic state.

As you can imagine, I have been following the recent election and subsequent events very closely indeed. I’m in Hong Kong on business at the moment and Kyiv is on all the TV stations — even the Chinese ones! Seeing the huge demonstrations in places that I recognize from my visit makes it all seem very close. I very much hope that the situation will be sorted out quickly and that Ukraine enjoys the democracy that it deserves. Please be careful and stay safe.

 

E-mail 2:

I’m glad to hear that you are OK and that you are still enthusiastic, don’t give up!!!

The whole world is watching. Kyiv has been on CNN, BBC World as well as the local Hong Kong and Chinese TVs almost non-stop over the last few days. The events are being portrayed very much like the revolutions in Eastern Europe in the 90s with commentators saying that finally the Ukrainian people have had enough of being run by shadowy figures. You have ENORMOUS support outside the country. I live very close to the Ukrainian embassy in London, and my friends at home say there have been large demos there as well.

The BBC says there have been mass resignations of Ukrainian TV journalists in protest [against being told how they should present the news], but I suppose that in these days of satellite TV and the Internet it is hard to control what people see and hear.

I appreciate that the situation is delicate and even quite dangerous, and this may sound strange but I almost envy you. Politics in the UK and much of Western Europe is so dull, uninspiring and even undemocratic, we are spoilt. For you though, it’s very real and very, very important to make your voice heard. I pray that the voice of the people will be heard and that you will be able to force change through real democracy and people power.

Rest assured that your cause has a lot of friends outside Ukraine. I hope things can be resolved quickly and peacefully and that true democracy triumphs.

 

E-mail 3:

From what I can tell here, I think there is cause for optimism. People here got quite worried about the talk of the East [of Ukraine] separating [from the rest of the country]. I think some forces were trying to turn things into an ethnic conflict and it was very confusing as some commentators were saying that just because some Ukrainians speak Russian doesn’t make them Russian, just as the Irish may speak English but definitely don’t want to be part of the UK. Other commentators claimed that Russian speakers had a strong affinity for Russia — very complicated.

Anyway, I hope things are still going well.

 

 

David Fletcher,

an artist from Toronto, Canada

The best thing that can come out of the political crisis and the Orange Revolution that followed is a hope that the Ukrainian people begin to overcome the hopelessness into which the bureaucracy has plunged them, and that they gain confidence in their ability to organize and thereby to change the society that they live in for the better.

 

Photo by Yu. BUSLENKO

 

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