Archive for February, 2014

Eyewitness Account from Maidan

AftermathI can picture many things about what happened less than a week ago in Kyiv, Ukraine.  The other places like Kharkiv, Donetsk, Lviv, not so much. I lived for six years in Kyiv so I have many friends still living there.  An amazing account of what it was like that dark night of the 18th of Feb. I’m hoping that I hear from my former Ukrainian students. I taught writing and composition, I hope they know how important it is to write like this young person did in the example below.  Some of my students have temporarily shut down their Facebook accounts, others are giving me information in bits and pieces, mostly in Ukrainian or Russian.  Read on:

By Serhiy Suprun

I want to tell you about the night of February 19th, and what happened during the operation of “clearing the Maidan” by the Berkut police.

It was the toughest night of them all. The famed self-defense “hundreds” (“sotni”) were nowhere near us and neither were the guardsmen from “Svoboda.” The men holding up the front line of defense were badly organized and severely exhausted, at this point having to use their heads to prop up their shields against the oncoming assault, because their arms had no strength left in them. The stage provided them some confort, because it was free of the MP’s usual cheap pathos-filled and self-serving slogans. There was no one left. Parubiy (leader of people’s self-defense) declared that he suffered a stroke and went home. Turchynov (MP) requested a stretcher, announcing that he was hit by a sniper’s bullet.

Berkut continued with their constant attacks. The perimeter was being held up by 300-400 people, while the rest were just compassionate spectators. As morning neared, there were less and less people around. Khreschatyk become empty, and those of us who remained were either rushing about or nearly crawling, trying to drag to the frontline anything that could burn. After 5AM the situation became desperate, as the frontline of defense was being pressed back. The barricades on Prorizna Str. and in the Pasazh were left unguarded, several times messengers would come to us with the alarming reports of advancing Berkut forces and “titushki” coming at us from the side of Besarabka square.

We were anxious. We were scared. Everyone suddenly realized that we have no chance of holding on to Khreschatyk. After 8AM people began scattering more actively, there was hardly anyone coming in. Suddently, along Khreschatyk, from the side of Besarabka, we saw a large group of men armed with shields and baseball bats advancing upon us. It was the end.

We began grabbing bricks and lighting Molotovs. The running group was getting closer and closer and, as their faces became clearer, our dread was quickly replaced by sudden understanding – they were OUR GUYS! The expressions on their faces could only belong to OUR GUYS!

Men aged forty-fifty years old ran up to us, quickly lined up in columns of fours, and our frontline defense fighters collapsed to their knees with a hard clanking of shields against the ground. What we heard next exploded our consciousness. “Brothers! We are so sorry that it took us so long to get to you.” Everyone wept. Everyone. They were the Lviv “hundred” (“Lvivska sotnia”).

As they all ran to take places at the frontline, a few remained to tell us the long story of HOW they managed to reach us. I will not write about it here, but it is a long tale of their courage and unwavering will. Glory to the Lvivska Sotnya! An hour later Ternopil happened…

Source: FB

Translated by Natalia Ioffe, edited by Jana Kualova

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Ukraine May have a Temporary Victory

I have been following the events in Ukraine very closely.  Below is a piece written by someone who lives in Kyiv, Ukraine and is in the know. This is good news, if it is true. Even if it is true for now, things could still go south.

Tonight, as I watch the funeral proceedings at Maidan attended by ten thousand people, I reflect on the day that preceded this burial service. In the end, this day could have gone any direction, but it seems at each crucial point (and there were many crucial points) the protesters (and peace) won the day.

Today sixteen statues of Lenin were toppled around Ukraine.

Today many significant votes were taken to restored a gutted constitution.

Today Yuila Timoshenko, the imprisoned former Prime Minister, was authorized by parliament to be set free.

Today the president agreed to early elections.

Today amnesty was granted for the hundreds of protesters who were arrested.

Today no protesters died.

Today neighborhood militias were formed all over Kyiv to protect from looting and unrest.

Today the guy who authorized shooting live rounds at the protesters was fired.

Today, the first day of many, there were no fires in Kyiv. (sorry CNN, I know you like the night shots of the city on fire, but I prefer it without)

….and best of all….

Today Ukraine won a Gold in women’s biathlon relay! – No matter that Putin revoked his loan deal, we’ll take the money in gold.

Many of my Ukrainian friends are talking of today as a new dawn, the tide has turned, a new era in Ukraine’s history. The contrast is striking – yesterday the darkest day since Soviet times, and today the brightest things have looked in a long time. There are even reports as I write this that the president has left the capital, it seems he, along with all sixty five private jets that left Ukraine last night (65!) have seen the writing on the wall and feel that they need to leave or face prosecution for their ill gotten gain.

But in the end the barricades are getting higher not lower downtown. The crowds are growing, not shrinking, and the highest priority of many of the protesters still stands. That is the immediate resignation of the president. As I write there are twenty thousand mad Ukrainians downtown who don’t seem to want to leave without an impeachment or a voluntary resignation, and so far they have gotten everything they want. On the other side, thus far, the president has been very reticent to give up power, and therein lies the problem. At this point it doesn’t seem like if, but when, and more importantly….how, the president will go.

In politics (as in Church history) its much easier for an opposition group come together against something, but when that thing they opposed is removed, it’s a bit harder for everyone to decide on a way forward. That is our situation in Kyiv now too. May Ukraine prosper under a just and fair government for many, many years to come. However, we understand that this complete justice and fairness don’t seem to work always, and I’m sure there will be disappointments in the long term, and the near, future.

This is where the church comes in. The church now has a big role to fill as the country slowly (hopefully) begins to calm down and clean up. Just as people are most receptive to grace when broken, so goes for the country as well. Ukraine is broken now. We have hundreds dead, we have maybe a thousand wounded, we have a burned out center in place of our downtown, we have daily inflation and we have lots fewer cobblestones than we started with. Ukraine is broken and needs renewal that comes as they seek the mercy and grace provided by Christ. Pray that the church will (continue) to fill this need, and now in a more specific way, through it’s service to the community, through cleaning up the city, through writing and thinking with others about the concept of true justice – something that Ukrainians have been seeking, and through preaching the Word.

I’m greatly encouraged by today, and recognize that it is still in a fragile state. Pray for continued peace – and mercy.

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Sundog Days and Groundhog Day

sundogstea cupsYesterday passed by without much fanfare about Groundhog Day.  People in Minnesota already know they are going to get more snow and winter weather whether Punxsutawney Phil, the celebrated groundhog, sees his shadow or not.  Watched part of the Super Bowl last night and after seeing the lopsided score and the awful half time show, I found other things to do.

Lately I have had women over for teas and conversation using my paternal grandmother’s tea set. (see photo above) These are probably post WWII plates and saucers that were hand painted by Japanese ladies after Japan lost the war. Others have shown off their plates that read on the bottom “Occupied Japan.”  With all the social media and how involved we all get with Twitter and Facebook, it is refreshing to just sit around and have scones and tea.

So far with my three parties, I have had 16 or 17 women over in the last several weeks.  I hope to have others to our old farmhouse in March when the weather is not so unpredictable. I had to cancel my first party because of a blizzard.  The other parties meant that our yard had to be snow blown out by a fancy tractor. Thanks to our wonderful neighbors who live a mile away.  It has gotten to the point where even if we don’t call them and it is 20 degrees below zero, they still show up ready to clean out our yard.  Yes, we have had blizzards a-plenty and we just finished January. We know, as Minnesotans, that there are potentially three more months of blizzard weather that could hamper our plans.  So we have become flexible and we are NOT breakable. Not as breakable as fragile tea cups and saucers.

I am glad to say that my second book is in the hopper. It was a tough semester with teaching two classes, being Program Director of our Carnegie and putting photos and text together for the book on my hometown. I look forward to how the proofs will look once May rolls around. The launch date is set for early June for our All-Schools Reunion end of June.

Not much other news to announce. I am watching the events very closely in Ukraine because I lived there for six years and have many friends and former students still there.  Some have gone to Maidan (Square in Ukrainian) plaza on Kretschatik, hopefully none have been in the middle of violence or some of the earlier altercations. I pray that is all resolved soon but there are too many bigger issues that have been under the surface for a long time. I think the same could be said about Kazakhstan.  Many things have been swept under the rug and soon there could be a dramatic change in the landscape especially in Astana.

What we can do is sit back and enjoy life and LOVE our families. At the same time we can pray for those who are missing loved ones or are struggling to survive in countries where their government does not serve the people.  Our own democracy is fragile and hanging in the balance.

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