Two weeks ago I bought a ticket to Chernivtsi for Petro, an experienced Maidan activist. One day he called me and said that he wants to go home, but he does not have money to go to his home village in Chernivtsi oblast. He is 60, he was on the Maidan since the beginning of December – he came immediately after the dispersal of students. “I was too old for the front line, young people are for this, but I carried tires and pavement blocks in Hrushevsky Street and poured the Molotov cocktails. On February 20, when boys were killed, I was from the side of the Maidan where the Kozatsky Hotel is located – I helped to carry the injured and killed,” Petro said. He says that in March new guys came to live in their tent – all of them had new camouflage uniforms and radios. He had not seen them before. After the tragic events on February 20 Petro continued to live in Maidan: together with his sworn brothers they fixed benches, planted flower beds, painted fences near Kozatsky hotel. For this they got food and cigarettes. He said he would stay in Maidan till the elections, but went home earlier after all. “I don’t see any sense to stay here – Kyiv is not facing any threat, and we have in a sense achieved what we wanted: Yanukovych ran away. I only want those who shot the boys to be found,” Petro explained. His vegetable garden and cat, which has been living at his neighbor’s place, are waiting for him at home. “Kotia has stamped a path from the neighbor’s house to mine,” Petro laughs.
Kyivite Stepan took part in absolutely all of the Maidan events. He went to the main square of the country on the first day, on November 21. On the night when students were beaten he was at the Independence stele, on December 1 – in Bankova Street, later he took part in defense of the Maidan from an attack on the night on December 11, and since the beginning of clashes in Hrushevsky Street he was always in the epicenter of the events, on February 18 – in the Mariinsky Park, and on February 20 – in Instytutska Street. At first he was going to the Maidan before and after the work, then took a leave, and later left his work to stay here all the time. But already in early March, after the Instytutska events and killings, he found a regular job, and now he comes to Maidan maybe only on weekends to take a short walk. “We should live on,” he gives a short explanation.
I met Volodymyr from Lviv oblast, when I was looking for the participants of the events of February 20. After the Instytutska events he went home for several weeks – to come to his senses after what he experienced and restore his health. When he came back in early April, he saw many new faces in the Maidan: young boys and girls wearing camouflage and armored vests, who had radios. “Those who were in Instytutska Street on February 20 did not have any of this equipment even close – people carried plywood shields and wore hard hats during the fight,” he says. We made friends with Volodymyr and from time to time went on a walk across the peaceful Maidan, talking about the tragic events and what awaits Ukraine in the future. But when I came a week later to the square, Volodymyr was not here anymore: it turned out he was undergoing a military training in the National Guard. Later he called and told that he did not come back to Maidan, but he was already in Odesa self-defense unit – it was right after the tragic events of May 2. But several weeks later he returned home as an observer on the elections.
Today I have no one to visit in the Maidan, because all of my acquaintances have left. Some of them are getting medical treatment from injuries, others came home to their families, work, and vegetable gardens, yet others signed up to the army as volunteers and at the moment are in the east of the country or in a training camp near Kyiv. They give a simple explanation: there is no need to stay in Maidan, because Kyiv is facing no threat, the elections have taken place, and it is time to build a new society and defend the integrity of the state in the east.
But there are still people who are not going to leave the main square of the capital in the near future – in spite of the heat, lack of necessary sanitary conditions, food, and on the whole any work and need to be in Maidan. Currently it is quiet, hot, and passive there. The elections have taken place, but the tents continue to stand. When we ask the men why they don’t leave, we hear in response general phrases that “not all of the politicians have been lustrated,” “there has been no total rest of the power,” “the Maidan was betrayed,” etc. For those who have no place to return, the Maidan Nezalezhnosti has become simply a place of permanent residence. However, the thoughts are expressed more with increasing frequency that the Maidan should go to a new level – from physical presence of people in the square to qualitative new levers of influence and control over the activity of the newly elected power. Such ideas are voiced both by the Maidan activists, and by Kyivites, who have practically stopped to support the Maidan with money, food, and other necessary things.
“TENTS ARE A SCENERY NOW, BUT THE STATUS QUO THAT WAS ON THE MAIDAN BEFORE THE PROTESTS CANNOT BE RESTORED”
“Maidan is not the tents or the stage, it is the people and their energy. When there is energy and intention, they make attributes noble and meaningful. When there is no energy, the attributes are empty. I see nothing bad in removing the stage or the tents, because the Maidan is an impetus, a lack of fear in people, it can gather at any point of time. There is no need for tents to stand for this aim. However in the way Maidan exists now it creates discomfort,” says Bohdan Hdal, a graphic designer and co-founder of Rukotvory, a culture studies website dedicated to Ukrainian folk art. “The tents and toilets, barricades and stage – there was a need for them at that time. Now there is no such need. Maidan is the administrative heart of Kyiv. When there is disorder, socks and carpets are sold, and shawarma stands operate, this atmosphere is translated to the whole city. If people want a new country, they should come out together and change it from the inside, from the center of the city. And this should be done on both sides: people gather and clean, whereas the authorities solve the problem with small architecture forms, parking in the city, and all things that make life for Kyivites uncomfortable.”
Bohdan belongs to Kyivites who supported Maidan all the time, but now he sees no sense in presence of tents and so many people living in the square. He thinks that Maidan should disperse, but the urban space in the center of the capital cannot be brought back to its previous state. “Tents are scenery now, but the absolute status quo of the Maidan before the protests cannot be brought back. Khreshchatyk and Maidan must be pedestrian, at least partially. This is a place of silence and thoughts about important things. I am not a supporter of pompous monuments to the Heavenly Sotnia, but there must be some visual image. I like the granite monument created by the French sculptor, which is now in the Maidan. It has gone through fire and deserved to be there. At minimum the territory between Instytutska and Central Universal Department Store or Prorizna Street should become pedestrian. By the way, a pedestrian zone will be a kind of monument for the Heavenly Sotnia,” Bohdan explains.
“I HAVE AN IMPRESSION THAT PEOPLE GOT STUCK IN FEBRUARY AND CONTINUE TO LIVE WITH THOSE PROBLEMS. BUT LIFE PRESENTS NEW CHALLENGES AND DEMANDS”
A journalist and photographer from Kyiv, Olena Maksymenko was practically living in Maidan for the whole winter: she was a volunteer, who made photographs and wrote reports from the epicenter of the events. She was injured with a grenade on February 18 in Shovkovychna Street. Now she continues to visit the main square of the country from time to time. “There are few people there who were in Maidan during the battle action. And those who are seem, first, very vulnerable, and second, scarcely informed. I have an impression that they got stuck in February and continue to live with those problems. But life presents new challenges and demands. As for the negative things, there are many drunk and rude people in Maidan. Even the faces are different. This really discredits the Maidan which stood. In my opinion, it should not be demolished completely, but it must be transformed. For example, the Ukrainian Home can be left for the activists (there is some constructive activity, the artists are working there), one barricade, like memory and like warning, and two or three tents, in particular, an information tent. This should have been a compromise version, convenient for everyone,” Olena says. Recently the journalist was witness to crushing of the office of Sberbank of Russia, which stood safe and well through all the stormy events of January and February, and it has been damaged only these days.
“The property of the bank was confiscated by self-defense units; officially it will be used for the refugees from the Crimea. It looked quite weird in practice: to shouts ‘Glory to Ukraine!’ the men damaged a surveillance camera with a bat, and the windows were somewhat damaged too. According to Interfax-Ukraine, on Tuesday Minister of Justice of Ukraine Petro Petrenko stated that in case Moscow nationalizes Ukrainian property in the Crimea, Kyiv will compensate the loss with Russian property. But the scene of the attack looked pre-planned, to give the boys an opportunity to blow off steam. Some of the leaders of the Self-Defense said something like, ‘Calm down, everything was agreed and coordinated with the bank,’” the journalist says.
“THE PROBLEM OF MAIDAN SHOULD BE SOLVED, BUT THIS SHOULD BE DONE SLOWLY, IN A BUSINESS-LIKE MANNER”
On Wednesday coordinator of Maidan Press Center Natalia Soloviova voiced the statement of the Maidan community that “it won’t disperse until all of its demands are fulfilled, and it has plans regarding the development after May.” “We are organizations which were not simply physically present at the square, but also the ones intending to preserve the spirit of Maidan, spirit of proposals, development, and control over the changes in Ukraine,” Ukrinform quotes her as saying, “Maidan won’t disperse until the demands of the Maidan are fulfilled: punishment of criminals, lustration, the package of laws for changing the system of power; the constitutional order has not been restored in a part of the communities; the perpetrators of mass killings have not been punished; a territorial community of Kyiv on self-governance has not been created,” Soloviova said. She stated that “physical Maidan” should be preserved and upgraded.
At the same time yesterday it was announced that the inauguration of the newly-elected President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko will take place in Maidan Nezalezhnosti. The Acting President of Ukraine Oleksandr Turchynov signed a corresponding order. Among the tasks set for a specially assigned group concerning the preparation for the ceremony, there is a clause, “to work on the question and develop the measures on normalization of the situation in Maidan Nezalezhnosti and adjusting streets in Kyiv and creation of other conditions to provide appropriate fulfillment of the functions of the capital by the city.”
The newly-elected mayor of Kyiv Vitalii Klitschko stated that the barricades in the Maidan Nezalezhnosti have “fulfilled their function and must be demolished.” “Maidan’s task has been fulfilled. We have gotten rid of the dictator. The lustration of the power has been fulfilled. Kyiv should return to normal life and carry out reforms,” Klitschko stated.
Culture expert, publicist, and historian Vadym Skurativsky, who has many times spoken from the stage in Maidan, told The Day that the problem of Maidan should be solve slowly and in a very correct manner. “I think the problem of Maidan should be solved, but it should be solved slowly in a business-like manner. Those who are solving this problem should constantly consult, communicate with representatives of Maidan. And vice versa, Maidan should constantly consult with current power, especially after the presidential elections,” Skurativsky said.
Here it will be appropriate to mention the phrase of the Editor-in-Chief of The Day Larysa Ivshyna she said at a program on 112 Channel: “You should go well-timely to Maidan. But it is no less important to leave it timely.”