24 November 2005

OR Anniversary, Maidan

Memories of last year flood in as I walk down the slushy sidewalk of Prorizna towards Khreschatyk. The weather is a perfect copy of revolution Day 1. A wet cold penetrates immediately into my boots and gloves. No matter, the adrenaline starts pumping when I see the orange clad throngs heading towards Maidan. The crowd is larger than I expected, given the level of disenchantment voiced by most Ukrainians I meet. Maidan is full and fairly densely packed. The flag quantity is out of control. I stand, sandwiched in the crowd, looking through a forest of fishing rod flag poles. Orange flags and Batkivshchyna flags (Yulia Tymoshenko’s) with the purple band across the bottom of a Ukrainian flag are out in full force.

If I ignore certain things, like the large police presence and the occasional staggering drunk walking by, I initially feel like I did a year ago immersing myself in the positive vibe which I wouldn’t exactly call “subdued” like the AP reported. It’s actually quite festive. But then it hits me that a certain “bonding” is missing in the crowd. We’re packed like sardines in the crowd and I see a guy grab someone’s umbrella and rip it up. The umbrella owner had refused to take it down when informed that it was blocking people’s view. In another incident, after the crowd swayed back and forth to the closing song “Ukraina”, a fist-fight broke out in front of the stage. It’s possible that I idealize everything about the OR in my brain, but I have no recollection of anything like that happening. Was it PORA policing the crowd last year that helped prevent these situations?

Maybe it’s the absence of the element of fear that we shared a year ago. Things we feared: the electricity being cut, authorities clearing out Maidan by force, Russia making a move, and Channel 5 being taken off the air. (Last year thousands of people gasped in unison when Channel 5 blinked and then went off the air…followed by sighs of relief when it came back a few minutes later).
Lutsenko’s speech is a highlight of the activity on the stage. His animated appeal to keep the faith and stay the course is well received by the crowd. Sidenote: earlier in the day, our film-making cousin Damyan bumped into Lutsenko randomly on the street and snagged an interview. Here’s Damyan (with Ola):

He filmed many hours on Maidan last year (and the AvtoProbih around Ukraine) and he’s here to film the anniversary to include in his unique documentary: Orange Chronicles.

Yushchenko’s and Tymoshenko’s speeches are too long and rambling. An opportunity to show Ukraine a new unity is not taken advantage of. Yulia does a better job speaking, compared to Yushchenko and his flipping through stacks of notes and papers. What else is new? Yushchenko enumerates the achievements of the new government, many of which seem plausible and true (keep in mind I am a Yushchenko believer) but the audience isn’t exactly the model of attentiveness given the way he was speaking and the poor amplification. Both Y and Y go on and on about the need to be united and that they are willing to do anything it takes to be united, but neither does any sort of gesture towards the other one. The people I speak with are annoyed at the lack of unity on stage. They think the division is silly and not good for Ukraine.

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