22 November 2005

OR Anniversary, 08:30 No Orange In Sight

Only two things differentiated the ride to the kid's school this morning. First, a PORA poster hanging from the pedestrian bridge over the highway when entering the city limits. It had the faces of Yushchenko and Timoshenko and the text "Pora Jikh Spytaty". Second, a woman, one of dozens of people at the marshutka stop was wearing an orange bandana on her arm. By the time I got to work I probably passed a few hundred commuters walking on the sidewalks and waiting at bus stops. No orange in sight. No orange on any of the cars on the road either.

A year ago we were glued to Channel 5 in our apartment (most of Ukraine had no access to this channel) when around 2am, Yushchenko and Timoshenko asked everyone to come out to Maidan to protest against massive (mashtabny) falsifications. We kept the kids home from school and headed out to Maidan. I remember how taken aback I was at the numbers already assembled there before 9am. People were enthusiastically greeting one another and exchanging stories about how hard it was to get out of work for the day. Many explained to me that their bosses had said that going to Maidan would cost them their jobs. Their attitude was "Screw the boss, we're not kozly". Others related that their bosses had shut down the office and urged (practically required) the employees to go home, dress warmly, and come to Maidan. Still others were discussing how their friends and families from all over Ukraine were mobilizing to come to Kyiv. We waited for Yushchenko to come on stage. It was a morning of firsts for me. The first time I heard the historic chant "Yush-chen-ko". The first time I heard the Ukrainian language spoken by so many people in Kyiv, even before the Western Ukrainians arrived. The first time I heard "Shche Ne Vmerla Ukraina" sung in Kyiv with such passion and heartfelt pride. (Prior to that I had heard it sung at sold-out soccer matches by only a few people in the crowd. The majority looking on indifferently). Emails and photos from last year on Maidan here.

Ola's cousin Roman, a father in his thirties who tragically passed away last Spring, received a call from his mother.
"It's dangerous out there. There's talk of drunk hooligans from Donestk in buses. There will be provokatsiyi. Come home." said Teta Halya.
"I'd rather die out here, Mama, than spend another day on my knees. If anything happens to me tell my son that I stood out here, on Maidan, for his future. Tell him I love him."


Stefan said...

Thanks Petro for this and other of your posts. I especially appreciated the schedule of events for Nov. 22 you posted a few days ago, as I am not in Ukraine for the moment, and was sooo curious to know what was planned.

You make such an important
point at the end of this post--people really were willing to die, to risk it all as they stood at demonstrations, not just in Kyiv (where the risk of crackdown was perhaps the greatest), but all throughout Ukraine.

My father's cousin, on the day he left for Kyiv from our small, Western Ukrainian town (Pidhajtsi, in Ternopil region), said this to me as he went out the door: "I am ready, if I have to; I am prepared to make the ulimate sacrifice so that Oksana and Taras (his children) can grow up into a normal country."

This was no joke; this was real sentiment. Both the critics of the OR as well as the new gov that has done so much to disappoint people like Hryts would do well to keep everyone like him in mind.

I have put a link to your blog up on my own. Thanks for the blog.

petro said...

Thanks for the comment Stefan. I spoke with several people from Western Ukraine during the OR. They showed an amazing commitment level. One Lvivyanin told me a bus pulled up to an office building in Lviv and word was spread that the bus is going to Maidan in Kyiv that instant. It had started snowing and women got on the bus in high heels. In Kyiv total strangers provided winter coats and boots.