I watched the massacre on Maidan unfold in real time. No, I wasn’t there (thank God), but I did see it live. As the protests on Maidan Nezalezhnosti grew more intense in the new year, I fell into watching the live feeds from Ukrainian and Russian television. I have no personal investment in what happens in Ukraine. My grandmother was Ukrainian, but I don’t remember her a such. She claimed to be Prussian, and American.
Not that it matters.
On 20 February, I came home from work, and as was my usual routine at the time, pulled up the Maidan feeds. They were nothing spectacular. A view of the stage, people giving inspiring speeches, views of the massive crowd. Flipping back and forth between the feeds and schoolwork, I kind of dozed off. Until I saw movement. A random camera angle caught some agitated protesters at the back of the crowd. They were visibly stirred up, waving for friends to come join them. This caught my eye. The speeches went on as though nothing was happening. I suppose this was standard for life on Maidan, where things happened almost daily. But not like this. The intensity these guys were showing was different than what I’d seen prior. A small number of people began running their way, carrying whatever weapons they had. It seemed like only a matter of minutes had gone by when I started seeing casualties being carried away from the other side of the square. They were in bad shape, more so than I’d seen yet. As it happened, panic, fear. People were battered, broken, bloodied. The casualties came faster. Snipers were firing on the people of Euromaidan. I was horrified at what I was watching. I can still see it in my mind.
Following the months of protests, and watching that day… I admire the Ukrainians on the Maidan. They had the courage to stand up for what they believed. Through Ukrainian winter and hostile government forces, they were out on the square day after day. Battered by police and thugs, the Ukrainians stood up to rid themselves of who they saw as a corrupt Kremlin puppet. Thousands of Ukrainians stood up, even as their fellow citizens on Maidan were being shot and killed. They were successful in forcing Viktor Yanukovych out of office, but they still have a long road ahead. Years of corruption and mismanagement by governments have left Ukraine vulnerable. Kyiv is disorganized and unsure. Since Euromaidan, Russia has annexed Crimea without resistance from Ukraine. There is still unrest in the eastern cities of Kharkiv and Donetsk.
I think about my own country, myself. Do I know anyone who would be willing to do that? Would I be willing to do that? Watching the events in Ukraine, I reflect on my own country. We have moved far away from the days of World War II, when the love of God, country, and family superseded all. People stood up and volunteered to fight for what was right. We are now a country of activism for personal causes. I look at Ukraine, and many other countries, and wonder if we’ve lost touch. More importantly, do we still understand how the world works beyond our borders? Misplaced ideals and theory are no match for a people willing to stand in a Ukrainian winter, among titushky and Berkut, to fight for the glory of their country. Euromaidan may have been one important victory, but will Ukrainians win the war? Russia is still eyeing territory in Ukraine. Does Ukraine have what it takes to resist? The government may not, but the people of Ukraine certainly do. I think 20 February proved the citizens of Kyiv, and Ukraine, will do what it takes to save their country.