Saturday, November 23, 2013

Protests in Ukraine

This article from the BBC is well written and unbiased.

Only a few days before Ukraine was to sign important agreements with the EU, the Ukrainian government has halted the process.  The European Union considers Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Prime Minister - currently serving a long prison sentence, to be a political prisoner.  Some reports claim that the EU is demanding that she be allowed to receive medical care in Europe and some report a demand for her release.
Thousands of people, young and old, are crowding the streets in protest against the decision to halt the European Integration process.  Mass rallies are happening all over Ukraine.  On Sunday there will be a mass rally in the capitol city's main square.  Allegedly the government has stopped buses from Lviv to Kyiv and has stopped selling train tickets.  The government fears mass protests like those of the Orange Revolution 9 years ago this week.

This weekend, across Ukraine, people will commemorate the forced famine of 1932-33.  Between 6 and 10 million Ukrainians died as a result of the forced famine.  My best friend's great-grandfather led a caravan of 40 wagons of food to the border and was turned away by the Soviet authorities who insisted that there was no famine.  The forced famine of the Ukrainian people is perhaps the largest act of genocide the world has ever seen - and it is almost entirely lost to history.  This weighs heavy on the hearts of many Ukrainians as they fight for further integration with the European Union.

This is a complicated and difficult situation, and I am always afraid that perhaps I do not understand everything that is going on.  Ukrainian politics are messy and complicated - and I generally stay almost completely neutral.  I'm not Ukrainian.  Although I love this country and translate poetry from Ukrainian to English, I am an outsider.  My students are so passionate and so united about this cause, that I simply must join with them.  They truly see no other path forward for their future.  For some of my friends, EU integration is their only chance of a normal and productive life.

I will be at the central square in Lviv often during this time.  I will be showing my support and my solidarity with my students and friends.  Please pray for safety for all involved and for a peaceful resolution.  Some are calling for another revolution.  The most common thought that I hear among my friends is that if "we start this, we must finish it."  People were left disheartened after the Orange Revolution fell apart following the global economic collapse and party infighting.  If it comes to revolution, may it be a peaceful one.

students gather to remember those who died in the forced famine

The rally in Lviv

Thousands gathered near the monument of Taras Shevchenko

During the rally, many ordinary people stepped up to speak.  Lviv's mayor spoke eloquently.  The rector of the University, Vokarchuk, who is being forced out for political reasons spoke beautiful words.  But it was the common folk who really touched my heart.  One man stepped up with a very strong speech impediment.  He spoke directly from his heart and brought many of us to tears with his words.  This has been an emotional week, and there is certainly more to come.  Please keep Ukraine in your thoughts and prayers.  I will try to post often and keep people up to date on what is happening here.

- Michael Airgood

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