Prague LGBT Community Supports Ukraine 2014

As a Ukrainian citizen, I was extremely touched by the gesture. This meant a lot more to me than seeing foreigners supporting my country. Although the world is becoming increasingly more open toward the LGBT community, there is still a lot of legal and social discrimination. I was honored that the LGBT community decided to spend the one day a year dedicated to celebrating their own freedom by showing their support for the sovereignty of Ukrainian territory.

The fourth annual Prague Pride Parade, held on Aug. 16, ended with a festival in Letna Park. What made this year’s event special was the Ukrainian flags spotted in between the extravagant costumes and rainbows. The largest LGBT event in central Europe chose to share their special day with Ukraine.

Just recently, on the night of Aug. 14, Russian military convoys were seen crossing the border. Some thought that this would be the official beginning of a war. This happened right in the middle of Pride week in Prague, and although the conflict in Ukraine didn’t escalate as much as people had feared, Ukraine felt a jolt of vulnerability.

As a Ukrainian citizen, I was extremely touched by the gesture. This meant a lot more to me than seeing foreigners supporting my country. Although the world is becoming increasingly more open toward the LGBT community, there is still a lot of legal and social discrimination. I was honored that the LGBT community decided to spend the one day a year dedicated to celebrating their own freedom by showing their support for the sovereignty of Ukrainian territory.

Today they showed that they truly believe that freedom belongs to everyone.

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Originally posted here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/olena-kagui/prague-lgbt-community-sup_b_5684607.html

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.
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Kora Smirinova a Russian Ukrainian

Kora Smirinova posted a photo of herself on Facebook on March 12th, and it wasn’t just an ordinary photo. Many girls take selfies and post duck-face pictures showing off their cleavage, but Smirnova did something a little different. She’s a modern woman and definitely no damsel in distress…

Kora Smirinova was made possible thanks to the grant I received from the Prague Freedom Foundation to report on the Ukrainian Euromaidan Revolution in March 2014.

Kora Smirinova posted a photo of herself on Facebook on March 12th, and it wasn’t just an ordinary photo. Many girls take selfies and post duck-face pictures showing off their cleavage, but Smirnova did something a little different. She’s a modern woman and definitely no damsel in distress.

Before you read her message, note that she uses harsh language and that her anger isn’t directed at the Russian nation as a whole, it is directed at those Russians who are fighting to make Crimea part of Russia, which is she against.

This is what she wrote in her photo’s caption:

I am Smirinova, and I remember very well that my grandfather and his family came from Russia to Ukraine after the war. I am thankful that Ukraine adopted us, strangers, gave us a home, a job, protection and never offended us. In my entire life not once was I reproached for speaking my native language or singing my native songs, I was never called ‘Moskalka’ (this is a derogatory term for Russians). I was born in Poltava, Ukraine raised me as her own, and when I moved to Kiev, not once did I hear the word ‘limit’. I am 100% Ukrainian! Even though I don’t have a single drop of Ukrainian blood inside me. It doesn’t cross my mind to yell, “I am Russian, there are many Russians here so that means this land belongs to Russia!?” The other Russians in Ukraine whose memory is completely false – how is this your land? Ungrateful monsters! You are all guests here, who were given shelter and welcomed as kin. What sort of beast does one need to be to now decide to chase away and kill their host while yelling that this is their home?! Crimea is Russian? B******s with a short memory. You forgot what your fathers did to the Tatars? You forgot how much blood of the Tatar men you spilled and how many tears of grief of the indigenous population you caused? How you boarded Tatar families into trains and transported them to Siberia? You all need to spend the remaining Millennium begging on your knees for forgiveness. I am a Russian Ukrainian! I will chase bad Russians out of my native Ukraine together with my fellow Ukrainians.

P.S. Stepan Bandera is a hero of Ukraine, who spent his whole life fighting, by all means, necessary for the freedom of Ukraine. So yes, I am a ‘Banderovka’ (a term used for people who share and support Bandera’s ideals).

I had to re-read her post several times to soak it all in. Smirinova had clearly snapped with all that has been going on and this is what came out. There are many Russians who are outraged at what is going on in Crimea. There were thousands of Russian protesters in Moscow this weekend, Ukrainians had never imagined seeing so many Ukrainian flags in Moscow.

Here’s a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19liUISoAls

Originally posted here: https://olenakaguiukraine2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/kora-smirinova-a-russian-ukrianian/

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

Hanna Herman – War in Ukraine

“It is clear that the deputies here today don’t want Ukraine to split apart, for half of Ukraine to fall away.” As I listened to the deputies in Verkhovna Rada, Hanna Mykolayivna Herman really stood out to me. She is a member of the Party of Regions and Vice Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and International Relations. Until recently she was also very close to Yanukovich and acted as his advisor since January 2013.

She had supported Yanukovich since she became his spokeswoman Prime Minister in 2004. But after he fled but still announced himself as the legitimate president, she ceased speaking to him and for him. She remains a member of the Regional Party but her ideals are shared by many deputies from a variety of political parties. She received a lot of supportive applause at the parliamentary session on March 13th and she got a lot of attention from the press.

She stressed that that Ukraine must show the world that it is strong and must act on what is happening. “We need to look for protection within the Ukraine instead of externally.” Herman believes that the international community will lose interests in helping Ukraine if they see that Ukraine isn’t trying to help itself and if it’s perceived as weak.

Her other important point was that the government must finally answer certain questions to prove to the people that the government can be trusted. These questions include:

Who really shot at the people at Maidan?
Who really poisoned Yushchenko?
Who really killed Georgiy Gongadze?

“If you as the new government won’t give answers to (these questions), then it means that they were staged. It means that all of this can’t be believed,” Herman says. She also believes that deputies in the parliament shouldn’t be allowed to work simultaneously in the executive branch of the government. Working for both leads to corruption and doubt about the legitimacy of the bills passed. “We must understand, that if we are building a law-abiding nation, we cannot begin building it by breaking the law.”

There is a really great English-language website that explains the backgrounds of deputies and other Ukrainian politicians and shows all the promises they made and whether they were or weren’t fulfilled. Here’s the link to her profile (please note that her name is spelled differently based on whether it is translated from Ukrainian or Russian):http://en.slovoidilo.ua/person/German-Anna-Nikolaevna.html

https://olenakaguiukraine2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/hanna-herman/

How to Make Freedom Idiot-Proof

Every foreigner knows the U.S. for being the “land of the free and home of the brave”. Although the U.S. government avoids ratifying many specific human rights treaties they are still one of the top countries when it comes to upholding their citizen’s human rights. Freedom is a huge theme in America and everyone always talks about what their rights are, and they are quick to speak up when their human rights are being abused.

Maybe I should learn to speak up, too. Let me try.

Spending ten days in Ohio, I’m here to report that I’ve seen many public signs that violate basic human rights found in the U.S. Constitution. Some of them are hilarious, if you ask me. The very first Amendment, for example, is breached in most libraries across the country. How can one exercise their right to free speech when they read signs that demand ‘Library Silence’. I was shushed at in a university library the other day when trying to express a scholarly thought – not only was my right of free speech violated but in the shock of the experience robbed me of myintellectual property – that’s a double right violation right there. See what I mean? And that’s not all.

Another set of signs that violates our basic human rights begins with signs prohibiting people from littering. Every time we are not allowed to throw our burger wrapper or coffee cup on the ground because there’s a sign saying ‘Do not litter. Use the bins provided.’ we are forced to go out of our way to dispose of our trash which takes away from our precious free time and wastes our energy that could be used for more productive activities like watching TV – this sounds very much like involuntary servitude, to which the only exception is as punishment for a crime. So if you’re not a criminal, you are being cheated out of yet another human right. I protest!

Finally, it is frustrating to see signs demanding that people wash my hands with a description of how to do it – these signs that are seen most commonly in restaurants, schools and hospital bathrooms. Free people living or traveling in the land of the free should be free to choose to be dirty and bacteria-ridden if they chose so to be. Granted, I haven’t been able to find an Amendment to fit this particular crime against human rights, but I feel violated anyway. As if a bathroom door or mirror has any right to dictate any man, woman or child’s level of cleanliness. I protest again!

Then again, maybe I shouldn’t protest too much. After all, the second Amendment allows citizens to keep and bear arms…

Remembering the Kent State Massacre – What is Freedom?

On Monday, May 4th in 1970 some students went out to gather by the bell despite the threat of tanks on their campus and being surrounded by the National Guard. They were asked to leave for their own safety, but they didn’t move until they were attacked with tear gas. They threw tear gas canisters as well as rocks back at the armed men that were advancing towards them. Once there, several of them got down and aimed their guns at those protesters who were the bravest and most vocal. The National Guard ended up the gathering and leaving and the students believed that they had won. They didn’t get a chance to celebrate for long, because out of nowhere a group of the guard looked back at the students, turned themselves around without provocation, and began to fire.

Are We Actually Free? was originally published on an expired domain created for the Kent State and Anglo American University‘s Journalism Program sponsored by Prague Freedom Foundation that I participated in during the Winter Semester of 2014-2015.

Kent State University students thought they knew the answer to this question when they gathered on campus grounds to protest America expanding the Vietnam War to Cambodia on May 4, 1970. It was the promise and illusion of freedom that led them to fearlessly stand up to the National Guard and make demands to talk to the governor and to the president. But just like on the internet, not everything that you read on paper is 100 percent true, even when it’s written in the Constitution.

The students used their right to free speech and peaceful assembly as stated in the First Amendment as a shield against the government forces but this was not enough to protect them from tear gas and violence. The government wasn’t happy that these students, who were privileged enough to go to school on this beautiful government-funded campus, had the nerve to question and go against their political decisions.

Even though the protestors were facing violence and were treated unfairly and had their basic rights breached, they still believed that certain rights would hold up. On Monday, May 4th in 1970 some students went out to gather by the bell despite the threat of tanks on their campus and being surrounded by the National Guard. They were asked to leave for their own safety, but they didn’t move until they were attacked with tear gas.

Although the tear gas made them retreat they were not done protesting and they made this very clear. They threw tear gas canisters as well as rocks back at the armed men that were advancing towards them. The National Guard split up to chase all the students away from the grounds they had previously occupied and towards the parking lot. Once there, several of them got down and aimed their guns at those protesters who were the bravest and most vocal.

The students were taken back by such a display, but they continued protesting, believing that this was just a scare tactic and that the guns were not even loaded. The National Guard ended up the gathering and leaving and the students believed that they had won. They didn’t get a chance to celebrate for long, because out of nowhere a group of the guard looked back at the students, turned themselves around without provocation, and began to fire.

The students had no idea that the guns were loaded, and those who were too far to see and only heard had believed the sound to be of fireworks. But the sound was of death. Out of over seventy shots fired, thirteen hit victims – killing four, paralyzing one and injuring eight. None of them could have predicted that this would happen. They had false security from the words they read in their constitution and that they recited in their national anthem.

Forty years of so-called development later we see this sort of phenomenon repeat itself regularly worldwide. We hear the word democracy and we instantly feel safe without looking deeper into our situation. But we need to think and question to be able to decipher the truth. We need to be assertive individuals instead of a herd of sheep and only then will we have the ability to transform the system and create the ideal government. Freedom is more than just a state. It is ever changing and having freedom is an ongoing process that we must constantly work on in order to keep. The four students died in an attempt to regain their freedom for which we must commemorate them, and use them as inspiration to keep fighting so that we never lose ours.

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

Are We Actually Free?

Kent State University students thought they knew the answer to this question when they gathered on campus grounds to protest America expanding the Vietnam War to Cambodia on May 4, 1970. It was the promise and illusion of freedom that led them to fearlessly stand up to the National Guard and make demands to talk to the governor and to the president. But just like on the Internet, not everything that you read on paper is 100 percent true, even when it’s written in the Constitution.

The students used their right to free speech and peaceful assembly as stated in the First Amendment as a shield against the government forces but this was not enough to protect them from tear gas and violence. The government wasn’t happy that these students, who were privileged enough to go to school on this beautiful government-funded campus, had the nerve to question and go against their political decisions.

Even though the protestors were facing violence and were treated unfairly and had their basic rights breached, they still believed that certain rights would hold up. On Monday May 4th in 1970 some students went out to gather by the bell despite the threat of tanks on their campus and being surrounded by the National Guard. They were asked to leave for their own safety, but they didn’t move until they were attacked with tear gas.

Although the tear gas made them retreat they were not done protesting and they made this very clear. They threw tear gas canisters as well as rocks back at the armed men that were advancing towards them. The National Guard split up to chase all the students away from the grounds they had previously occupied and towards the parking lot. Once there, several of them got down and aimed their guns at those protesters who were the bravest and most vocal.

The students were taken back by such a display, but they continued protesting, believing that this was just a scare tactic and that the guns were not even loaded. The National Guard ended up gathering and leaving and the students believed that they had won. They didn’t get a chance to celebrate for long, because out of no where a group of the guard looked back at the students, turned themselves around without provocation, and began to fire.

The students had no idea that he guns were loaded, and those who were too far to see and only heard had believed the sound to be of fireworks. But the sound was of death. Out of over seventy shots fired, thirteen hit victims – killing four, paralyzing one and injuring eight. None of them could have predicted that this would happen. They had false security from the words they read in their constitution and that they recited in their national anthem.

Forty years of so-called development later we see this sort of phenomenon repeat itself regularly worldwide. We hear the word democracy and we instantly feel safe without looking deeper into our situation. But we need to think and question to be able to decipher the truth. We need to be assertive individuals instead of a herd of sheep and only then will we have the ability to transform the system and create the ideal government. Freedom is more than just a state. It is ever changing and having freedom is an ongoing process that we must constantly work on in order to keep. The four students died in attempt to regain their freedom for which we must commemorate them, and use them as inspiration to keep fighting so that we never lose ours.