This post was written by our guest contributor, "hardybear" of the wonderful Free Range Talk site:
Kiev, glory of the banks of the River Dnipro and the shining city of the Ukraine, is now one more Protest-to-Near-War zone in a global political climate that showcases violence and further schismatic, fatality-frenzied divides in the oldest civilizations we collectively share.
While the world's eyes are on the Games in Sochi, the iron chest of Putin is puffed out in a stern egoist posture of Amicable Host. Unopened Olympic Rings and a stingingly harsh Men's Hockey loss are seemingly no more annoying than simul-cams of the Ukranian 'Pal of Putin' President Viktor Yanukovych's epic fail to find a non-nuclear solution in Kiev. To the tragic tune of over 70 dead yesterday alone. The most lethal day since the Ukraine separated from the USSR in 1992.
For now. In less than a long weekend, Vladimir will unsmilingly wave off the World and turn his fist to the Ukraine. After
centuries decades of their Russian-Soviet-Russian love-tyranny relationship, one suspects that he will Impale as many humans opposed to his worldview as possible in his dear Western-obsessed Kyiv.
In 1980 locals were as eager to meet a young American as I was to learn everything possible about the USSR, and Kiev was a great city to start the stint in. It went beyond young Ukranians wanting to purchase the Levi's off my arse, they wanted to sing and dance to Stones and Beatles tunes and to know every last detail about life and democracy in France and America. When I realized last month that a childhood friend from Vermont and his family were not going to be able to leave their home of nearly a decade in Ukraine and lived less than a half mile away from the protest zone, I reached out and was stunned to hear that they were in the thick of things, being Helpers in unimaginable chaos.
When the following email came along early Thursday morning from the chum's Ukranian wife, what was happening in Kiev on the tee vee suddenly became a reality under our safe, snow-laden country roof. [Names abbreviated for privacy reasons.]
[The government] Just published the message that in a few hours they will announce State of emergency. They will switch off mobile service and internet. SO if we are OFF line just stay in touch over the phone. We just came back from the main square. 5 dead bodies were lying under the tent. People say that we should hide and walk behind anything because there is a sniper on the roof that kills people. By the time we came back I was 15 dead. We stayed some time at Mikhailovskiy cathedral helping to sort medicine that people bring every second. Bags of syringes, IV, things for surgery, etc. J---- just left to pick up E---- from school.
We'll be in touch.
I am thrilled to report that today their family remains safe, if all too close to the action. Other neighbors, friends and 'passionate about democracy' pals were not so fortunate, and thanks to some quickly made acquaintances, we followed other eye-witness reports out of the city yesterday and today mourn many, as you can witness in the photo tribute below.
The historic Podil Quarter, one of Kiev's most charming areas to find a European café and luxe-ly breakfast on strong java and the dense local cheesecake called Syrnyk, was a popular place for families to gather in quieter times. Perhaps 19-year old Ustyn Holdnyuk had met his father there before his last day on earth, February 20, 2014. From the Facebook timeline of a noted champion of the cause in Kiev, Borys Gudziak, excerpts from a story titled "Blue Helmet".
A strong man in his 50s with pale wax-like face-mask and red, fixed at one point eyes, was sitting on his knees next to the body covered by a bloody sheet… He didn’t have any force even to half-open it.
At last, he opened a bloody sheet by its corner, recognized his son, and covered his face immediately. He turned his head aside where eleven bodies were lying, also covered by white sheets with blood traces. Small pieces of paper with something written by red felt-tip pen were attached to those sheets at the level of the faces.
A big blue spot were seen among all this red painting on a white background… This was a military helmet painted in blue UN color. Covered by blood, it had a bullet hole on the left side at the level of the temple.
Ustyn Holdnyuk, 19 y.o., student from Zbarazh, small town in Ternopil region, Western Ukraine, was supposed to meet his father at 11 a.m. at October St. That’s what they agreed upon at 9 in the morning.
Ustyn was Maidan defender since November. They agreed that his father will bring him home, he needed some rest. But Ustyn didn’t survive those two hours before meeting his father.
“I told him: “Take care there, don’t expose yourself, the road is ahead”, said Holodnyuk. “He smiled saying: “Dad, don’t worry! I have a magic UN helmet and nothing will happen to me”. Those were his last words I heard from him”.
Volodymyr, Ustyn’s father, takes the helmet from the floor and is looking at the fresh blood of his son inside and outside the helmet, brings it closer to his face as if he wants to feel the smell and the warmth of his son, trying to say something, but his attempts are cutting short with the words “blue helmets”…
Former policeman, serving his whole life to his country, he’s trying to muffle… But he can’t…
Ustyn did not have any chance to survive, as well as even other lying next to him at the floor of Ukraina hotel, equipped for a temporary morgue, according to Olga Bohomolets, doctor in chief of the mobile hospital of Maidan self-defence.
“Sniper or snipers were professionals, she says. All their victims were shot in heart or head. All are killed with 7,62 mm bullets [Dragunov sniper rifle]. They were shot to defeat”.
As a citizen, Ustyn’s father was supporting his son’s striving to be on Maidan, says Volodymyr. As his father, he was against.
Original text by Sergei Loiko
Translation by Iryna Ozymok
An enlightening interview from Thursday with Gudziak himself, wherein he gives an excellent brief history of the culture and conflict. In two brief parts.
It was mediocre news to hear around Noon EST Friday that the protesters and the Ukranian government have reached a "political reform deal" and have broached the bone of 'early' elections, three European Union ministries and councils helped broker the new truce, according to the New York Times.
KIEV, Ukraine — The embattled president of Ukraine and leaders of the opposition signed a political deal on Friday aimed at ending a spiral of lethal violence with early elections and a reduction in presidential powers, but Russia declined to endorse the accord and many protesters said nothing short of the president’s resignation would get them off the street.
Stay tuned. And please keep this story alive and these brave, relateable people in your hearts and minds.