October 19, 2017

Elegy For Those Who Won't Stay Quiet

Sometimes, there's a great price to be paid for speaking up. It's no wonder people don't do it.

circa 2014—By Amakuha (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Whether it's outing a sexual harasser, abuser, or assaulter, or it's protesting governmental policies, whoever raises their voice in opposition has to withstand beratement, suspicion, interrogation, violence, and/or—as was the case in the Ukrainian Revolution of 2014—death.

In the Euromaidan protests of the time, one of which was centered on Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Майдан Незалежності) in Kiev, a volunteer task force had appropriated the Trade Unions Building (Будинок спілок Федерації професійних спілок України) as its headquarters and command center—mostly, to feed and otherwise support the students who were engaged in civil disobedience in the middle of a typically cold, wet winter.

And then somebody set it on fire while it was full of people. Nearly 40 of them died in the conflagration.

The corrupt Ukrainian government and the police blamed the protesters—whether it was the peaceful ones calling for an alliance with the EU to the West, or the pro-Russian ones looking to drag the country back towards the East.

And sure, a molotov cocktail or two had been thrown in the environs of the square that surrounds the Independence Monument. But the protesters say that those had been planted by the police to escalate the conflict.

As our local Kiev guide and revolutionary, Slava, tells it, it was the government that burned the building down and took those lives. And, unfortunately, the massacre didn't end there.

By and large, the protesters knew they were targets for violence. After all, police unleashed water cannons on them, despite the sub-freezing temperatures. But, instead of arming themselves, the rebels created makeshift shields out of car doors, trash can lids, scrap metal, and anything else they could find—which would've been enough to stop a spitball or a rubber bullet, but not real ammunition.

And the ammunition that was turned on them was, in fact, very real. Though the protestors had barricaded themselves inside the square with whatever they could find (imagine those from the Paris Uprising of 1892, as described in Les Misérables), it offered little protection when the police finally opened fire on and tossed grenades into the crowd.

The weren't just warning shots, though. Officers didn't fire blanks or aim their guns up into the air to scare the insurgents into submission. They carried AK-47s, and they intended to use them.

The positioned snipers upon rooftops and took aim directly at those they wanted to silence, shooting them in the heads and necks—that is, shooting to kill, despite the president having agreed to cease fire.

But it was only a temporary fix, really—because although some of those who occupied Maidan were forced into an eternal silence (including the "Heavenly Hundred" who sacrificed their lives for the cause), the massacre caused an even bigger uproar.

In fact, it's what led to the ousting of then-president Viktor Yanukovych, who was charged with mass murder for directing the police in their unspeakable actions against those who, at the very worst, were hoisting wooden sticks in their rebellion.

circa 2014—By Amakuha (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

And the so-called "police"? Some of those Security Service of Ukraine (Служба Безпеки України, or СБУ) troops who ultimately reported to the president may have actually been trained by Russian special forces.

At the very least, in 2015 it was revealed that the Ukrainian army soldiers—who eventually got involved as well, making the counter-protest effort a military mission—got ammunition and anti-riot and combat weapons from Russia.

Russia—and, specifically, Putin—has denied involvement in the massacre of these "radical" victims (later called "heroes" by the new Ukrainian government). But isn't it curious that after Yanukovych was ousted, the "Motherland" seized the opportunity to take control of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea?

That move was condemned by many nations internationally and resulted in a number of sanctions against Moscow and Russia—which brings us to why Russia may have wanted to get involved in U.S. elections.

It would be difficult to blame anyone who stayed home instead of camping out at Maidan. It's actually easier to blindly obey than it is to mindfully disobey. When under attack—or trapped by the fear of being under attack—sometimes it seems like the only thing you can do is play dead.

But that's what they want you to do—to just play along.

That's what those police officers did, despite the fact that the rebels peacefully begged them not to—appealing to their humanity by telling them that they didn't have to commit such atrocities because the government would be overthrown soon, and there would be no punishment for their disobedience.

Regardless, the troops were just following orders. Maybe they knew it was wrong but were too afraid to speak up. Maybe they thought they'd lose their jobs.

Maybe they thought their own lives were more precious than the lives they took.

Thankfully, the Maidan revolutionaries disagreed—and shed their blood selflessly, giving their fellow countrymen the precious gift of freedom beyond the barricades.

BREAKING: A number of makeshift memorials had been mounted over the past nearly four years since the horrific events of Euromaidan in 2014, but there was one more or less "official" commemoration of the heroes—placed directly below the so-called "flower clock" along Heavenly Hundred Heroes Avenue (a.k.a. Heroyiv Nebesnoyi Sotni Alley, Алея Героїв Небесної Сотні). As of earlier this month, October 2017, it has been destroyed and local law enforcement is pursuing leads on a suspect.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: The House That Corruption Built
Photo Essay: The Metal Mother Who Overlooks A War-Torn Land
Standing With Those Who Choose To Not Stand

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