November 17th 2014 – Romanians and Czechs Choose Democracy

In London, Madalina stood yesterday in the queue outside the Romanian Embassy for eleven hours and was among the last group of ten voters to be allowed into the Embassy to vote – with thousands left outside who were not able to vote…

“A minor miracle occurred yesterday,” wrote Frank Fischer in an email on November 17th, “(it) marked a significant victory for democracy and justice in Romania’s long march from the end of the Communist regime.”

Fischer is an Englishman who transferred to work in Romania as a Regional Sales Manager for Central and Eastern Europe in 2003. Before that he spent most of his career working in senior positions in the hydropower and wind power industries. He lived in Romania for the past 11 years and married a Romanian woman three years after moving there. Since he retired in 2009 he has become increasingly interested in Romanian culture and politics.

Romania is indeed a little-known country. But especially with the political events going on in Europe right now, this event was very important. November 17th was an important day in the Czech Republic too. It was a national holiday and the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolutionwhere Czechoslovak students, led by playwright and later renowned president Vaclav Havel, gathered to stand up against Communism. This fueled a series of events that toppled the regime and changed the country. During the celebration, there was a speech by the current Czech president Milos Zeman. He is a former Communist and he has been known for leaning towards the East. Thousands of Czechs held out red ‘penalty’ cards in protest as he spoke, and the peaceful protest turned into booing and boiled-egg throwing as he said the following three things:

– The revolution that was being celebrated had not played a role in ending Communism, nor was there any violence from the side of the police on November 17th, 1989.
– Tibet is part of China.
– There is no Russian involvement in Ukraine.

His speech was considered very insulting to many people, especially on the day that ultimately gave the Czech Republic and Slovakia freedom. But people united against him in the same spirit that they united against their non-representative government in 1989.

The Romanian presidential elections are also important in relation to Ukraine. Everyone has heard about the situation. Just over a year ago, on November 21st, 2013, Ukrainians stood up to make a change away from the East. They showed the world that they wanted democracy, rule of law and trade with Western partners. Since then they have shown that they are willing to die for these ideals as well as to protect their country. This seemingly small victory in Romania gives a lot of hope to East European countries who are trying to develop and move forward (Westward). It also creates a great example for Ukrainians – it shows them that democracy can be achieved if people come together, no matter how unlikely it may seem.

Below is the letter that Fischer sent to his family members, including his wife’s daughter, Madalina. Madalina then contacted me with the request to spread this information that brings a very important and positive message: change for the better is always possible.

Hello to you all!

Yesterday marked a significant victory for democracy and justice in Romania’s long march from the end of the Communist regime in 1989 towards the accepted values of Western Europe and North America. Against all expectations and despite the truly Machiavellian machinations of the ruling party, the underdog candidate, a Romanian from the Saxon minority and a Lutheran to boot, in a staunchly Orthodox country, won the second and final round of elections for the new President of Romania by a substantial majority. I realize that for most of you Romania is a little-known country more than a thousand miles away in a remote corner of south-eastern Europe, where events are generally of little interest to the inhabitants of the British Isles. But Romania is important to Europe. With a population of around 22 million, it is the third largest country in Eastern Europe (excluding Russia, which my father always said was an Asian country!) after Ukraine (55 m., and going down rapidly) and Poland (48 M.). This means it is an important trading partner. Its proximity to Moldavia and Ukraine give it major strategic importance in the current political situation of those two countries. In this context, Romania also has significant international value through its membership of the European Union and of NATO.

The favorite to win the elections that ended yesterday was Victor Ponta, the current prime minister and president of the ruling PSD (the Socialist Democratic Party, formerly the Communist Party). He is an accomplished liar, cheat and fraud. In the two and a half years since he became prime minister, he has supported the passage of numerous laws aimed at curbing the freedom of the media, promoting the interests of the oligarchs, facilitating vote-rigging in favour of the ruling party, and re-orientating the country away from Western Europe and towards Russia and China: all indications of a return to the country’s totalitarian past. Yet PSD has a strong following, based mainly on a system of patronage that makes local administrators beholden to the central government and therefore obliged to ensure that at election time, votes are steered towards the PSD.

In the first round of the elections, earlier this month, there were 14 candidates, partly because the parties of the center and right were unable to agree on a single candidate to oppose the left-wing Ponta. After that vote, the two leading candidates were Victor Ponta and the candidate put forward by an unholy alliance of the PNL (National Liberal Party) and the PDL (Democratic Liberal Party), who until recently were sworn enemies, but decided that opportunism was more important than principles. Their candidate was Klaus Iohannis, the mayor of Sibiu (formerly Herrmanstadt, once a large Saxon settlement). He is a dour, rather humorless and slow-witted but seemingly decent man who claims to be more interested in deeds than in words, which would be a refreshing contrast with Ponta. In the first round, Ponta won about 40% of the votes and Iohannis 30%. Ponta famously said that the second round of voting was not important for him, as the result was clearly predictable, so he would stay at home and eat popcorn in front of the television on election night. So Ponta and Iohannis faced each other in the final, second-round elections yesterday.

How wrong Ponta was. A minor miracle occurred yesterday. The people of Romania turned out to vote in numbers not seen since the 1990s and emphatically voted against Ponta. That’s really the point: people did not vote so much for Iohannis as to ensure that Ponta did not become president. All the numerous tricks employed by the government to ensure that they won the election (which included, for instance, bagging poverty relief aid from the European Union and distributing it as gifts from the PSD!) failed because of this surge of anti-Ponta sentiment. People had simply had enough of Ponta’s despicable trickery. Against all the odds, Iohannis won.

We were amazed and delighted by this result. The scenes of exuberance and jubilation in the major squares of central Bucharest as the election results became known were quite extraordinary, unlike anything I have ever seen anywhere else. In the run-up to this election, Gabi and I had seriously discussed selling up in Romania and moving to perhaps the south of France if Ponta won. Now the situation is different. Our move may still happen, but not under the pressure of political events.

A major part in Ponta’s failure was played by the Romanian Diaspora. Roughly three and a half million Romanians live and work outside the country. They generally tend to vote massively for right-wing candidates, so the left-wing PSD government did everything it could to limit the voting at polling booths in other countries. They were so successful that thousands of Romanians in many European countries, including the UK, were unable to cast their votes. This also affected Madalina, who stood for many hours in the cold and rain on 2 November in London but didn’t get to vote. This result caused widespread indignation and major protest meetings in most big cities in Romania. It was probably the spark that ignited the fury that compelled people who might otherwise not have done so to go out and vote against Ponta. After the debacle of the failed first-round vote outside Romania, the responsible minister was forced to resign. His replacement said that the second round of voting would not have the same result, but he lied. In London, Madalina stood yesterday in the queue outside the Romanian Embassy for eleven hours and was among the last group of ten voters to be allowed into the Embassy to vote – with thousands left outside who were not able to vote.

So – a historic event occurred, one that I will remember for a long time as a superb example of how close hubris and nadir can be in the world of politics! As the television pointed out, while Ponta was at home eating popcorn, his rival was being received in royal style in Piata Unirii, Bucharest’s biggest public square. I hope Ponta’s popcorn stuck in his craw.

A great day for democracy. Now it will be truly interesting to see what happens next!

Much love to you all – Frank & Gabi

Originally published here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/olena-kagui/november-17th-romanians-a_b_6213870.html

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100th Anniversary of WWI – DOX Front Line Exhibition

Today many nations are suffering and thousands of people are being killed. The major current conflicts with headlines all over the media include Gaza, Syria, Iraq and Ukraine. While some conflicts remain mostly regional, others like Israel-Palestine and Ukraine-Russia are becoming a threat to global peace. Obsessing over protecting the economy and continuing harmful trade cycles keeps preventing the success of peace talks and finding concrete solutions. Now more than ever we can see that history repeats itself. This is why we need to refer to the past when building a better future. That is the reason that DOX organized this exhibition…

“In 1914 the Great War began… and has lasted ever since.”

This quote can be found at the DOX Center for Contemporary Art in Prague the capital of the ‘heart of Europe.’ August 4th, 2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. The Front Line exhibition tells the stories of several Czech men from all over the country who had to leave their home and went to fight at various war fronts. Many powerful quotes written by Czech soldiers cover the walls of the exhibition:

“The most shocking fact about war is that its victims and its instruments are individual human beings…” – Aldous Huxley from the Austrian front.

“… we could write anything, just not the truth.” “What is fear. Fear is man. Man fears only man.” – Frantisek Seda also from the Austrian Front.

“If the soldiers were hungry, the town’s civilian population was hungrier still.” – Jan Vit from the Russian Front.

The quotes written by Czech soldiers reflect the hardships that war inflicts on the soldiers, their families and on the human psyche. But there are also quotes from famous global figures who touch on the cause and nature of wars:

“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.” – Voltaire

“I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” – Albert Einstein.

The total number of civilian and military deaths during WWI is estimated to be around 40 million. The war devastated Europe and tensions lingered long after the war. The drive of each country to rebuild their economies and recreate normalcy in a post-war society led to mistrust and political unrest – the second world war began only 21 years after the first ended.

The exhibition includes bits and pieces of the belongings of the Czech soldiers. The letters they wrote, the medals they won and the photographs they took; all reveal the horror of war. But the stories that the soldiers and their families pass on are more than memories of the past – they are a warning message to our generation and those that will follow.

Today many nations are suffering and thousands of people are being killed. The major current conflicts with headlines all over the media include Gaza, Syria, Iraq and Ukraine. While some conflicts remain mostly regional, others like Israel-Palestine and Ukraine-Russia are becoming a threat to global peace. Obsessing over protecting the economy and continuing harmful trade cycles keeps preventing the success of peace talks and finding concrete solutions. Now more than ever we can see that history repeats itself. This is why we need to refer to the past when building a better future. That is the reason that DOX organized this exhibition:

“(So) that some recollections of these ugly and horrible days be preserved for future generations, so they guard well against the ambitions of ‘dangerous lunatics’…” – Josef Lacina

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Officially published here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/olena-kagui/100th-anniversary-of-wwi-_b_5698759.html

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The Politics Behind the Chinese Exhibition in Prague 2014

Looking at the two mighty soldier statues evoked respect and admiration for Chinese culture and history. It is clear why Zeman hopes to gain economic insight and profit from cooperating with China. But adopting some great ideas can lead to also adopting less desirable ones — and if Czech respect for human rights ends up traded for money, then more people will begin looking at both statue and flesh-and-blood soldiers in fear instead of awe…

The beautiful and renowned Prague Castle in the Czech Republic is currently exhibiting the “Treasures of Ancient China” — including two statues of warriors from the Terracotta Army. There are over 90 exhibited objects that show the development of China over 5,000 years, starting with the Neolithic period and going through the very last ruling dynasty. The pieces for the exhibition come from several different museums in China that loaned them out for the exhibition, which opened Aug. 8 and will run through Nov. 9.

I attended the exhibition and found the art breathtaking and the history fascinating. However, recent developments in Chinese-Czech relations are even more interesting than ancient artifacts.

The Czech Republic and China began their diplomatic cooperation 65 years ago. Milos Zeman, who took office as the president of the Czech Republic on March 8, 2013, has been trying to improve relations with China. Zeman met Chinese President Xi Jinping on Feb. 7 in Sochi during the Olympics. They spoke about beginning a new relationship and cooperating in a variety of fields, from manufacturing to medical care. They also spoke about potential investments.

Zeman wants to cooperate with China “on the basis of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity,” which includes not interfering with internal issues of the other. According to the Prague Post, Lubomir Zaoralek, a foreign-affairs minister, visited Beijing and stated that the Czech Republic doesn’t support Tibet’s independence and believes it to be indivisible from China. Zeman will be visiting China again in October.

Karel Schwarzenberg, the former foreign minister who ran against Zeman in the 2013 presidential election, had said that the Czech government traded the protection of human rights for money. He said this due to the human rights that are violated all over China. He is not the only one who has this opinion. It is undeniable that cooperation with China and Chinese investments could do wonders to the Czech economy, but the price might be steep.

So although the Chinese exhibition — located in the most important building in Prague and the entire Czech Republic — is wonderful and educational, there is a bigger picture here. The Chinese loan has a deeper meaning than just sharing their culture with Czechs. The presence of China will remain even after the exhibition is over, and as the relationship develops, their influence here will intensify.

Looking at the two mighty soldier statues evoked respect and admiration for Chinese culture and history. It is clear why Zeman hopes to gain economic insight and profit from cooperating with China. But adopting some great ideas can lead to also adopting less desirable ones — and if Czech respect for human rights ends up traded for money, then more people will begin looking at both statue and flesh-and-blood soldiers in fear instead of awe.

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Originally published here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/olena-kagui/the-politics-behind-the-c_b_5699143.html

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Photos from Maidan: Ukraine’s 2014 Revolution

Here are some pictures from the very center of Kiev. They show the power and determination of Ukrainian people but they also show the terrible conditions that people lived in, and some still do. They show flowers and candles brought by all those who mourn the dead. They show what happens when people are pushed to the edge and have to fight back. If the conflict in Crimea escalates, there will be barricades, fires, flowers and candles there too.

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

Here are some pictures from the very center of Kiev. They show the power and determination of Ukrainian people but they also show the terrible conditions that people lived in, and some still do. They show flowers and candles brought by all those who mourn the dead. They show what happens when people are pushed to the edge and have to fight back. If the conflict in Crimea escalates, there will be barricades, fires, flowers and candles there too.

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This Christmas tree was reassembled for parts and put back together by protestors with flags.

Originally posted here: https://olenakaguiukraine2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/more-maidan-pictures/

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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/

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Brotherhood – War in Ukraine

Brotherhood was a word that I heard a lot yesterday at Maidan. Everyone there came on their own free will explains Olga Azzuz, a volunteer at a hospital, “we meet and we are like family.” But Maidan didn’t just unite Ukrainians, it also united Ukraine with other nations. Particularly Poland and Syria…

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

Brotherhood was a word that I heard a lot yesterday at Maidan. Everyone there came on their own free will explains Olga Azzuz, a volunteer at a hospital, “we meet and we are like family.”

During my first 10 minutes in the square, I heard a woman speaking in Ukrainian on stage and she ended her speech with “Glory to Ukraine, Allah Akbar.” Despite Ukraine being predominantly Orthodox Christian everyone applauded and cheered as she finished.

But Maidan didn’t just unite Ukrainians, it also united Ukraine with other nations. Particularly Poland and Syria. The Polish had always been close to Ukraine, but they really proved their loyalty during the protests. “The Polish really helped,” said Azzuz, showing me a Polish Church that was willing to risk helping injured protesters who were hiding from Berkut, “they were real brothers.”

Ukraine and Syria had improved their relations in 2012. What Putin is trying to do in Ukraine today is something he already did in Syria. One of the performances on the stage in Maidan was about this Ukrainian-Syrian relationship, and the audience was filled with Ukrainian and Syrian flags.

Originally posted here: https://olenakaguiukraine2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/brotherhood/

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Women at Maidan – War in Ukraine

Women have always played important roles in Ukrainian history. Whenever there was a conflict, women took up arms or found other ways to help their country. One of the active groups at Maidan were the Cossacks. They were mostly men but had a female Cossack group as well. There is only one woman in the picture and it’s not Irina, a lot of people don’t like to be photographed at Maidan because as they keep telling me, “we are not doing this for fame.”

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

Women have always played important roles in Ukrainian history. Whenever there was a conflict, women took up arms or found other ways to help their country. One of the active groups at Maidan were the Cossacks. They were mostly men but had a female Cossack group as well.

Women who wanted to help but couldn’t or didn’t want to fight helped in other ways. “We are women but we can still help, at least morally,” said Irina, who’s been working in the Cossack kitchen for three months. She is a student in Kiev and when I asked her why she came, she looked at me like it was a crazy question, “all my people are here… I live here so I’m going to stand here until the end.”

I asked her if she was scared. “Sometimes,” she said, “especially that night.” She referred to the night when Berkut stormed Maidan. But she didn’t let her fear stop her from doing what she believed was right. She found a way to help her people, like everyone else at Maidan. Politicians and their parties are often mentioned when people speak about Maidan, but they usually have a hidden (or a not so hidden) agenda, it is ordinary people like Irina who are the true heroes of Ukraine.

There is only one woman in the picture and it’s not Irina, a lot of people don’t like to be photographed at Maidan because as they keep telling me, “we are not doing this for fame.”

Originally published here: https://olenakaguiukraine2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/women-at-maidan/

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Beagles for Peace: Puppy Protest

Today was a long and emotional day for me at Maidan so my first post about it will be a happy one. One of the first things I saw when I arrived in the square was a group of beagles with yellow-and-blue ribbons on their collars. Their owners were holding signs that read “Beagles for Peace” standing on the steps by the ‘Christmas tree’. Other beagle owners were coming from every direction and the cuteness was attracting a lot of attention from those passing by…

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

Today was a long and emotional day for me at Maidan so my first post about it will be a happy one. One of the first things I saw when I arrived in the square was a group of beagles with yellow-and-blue ribbons on their collars. Their owners were holding signs that read “Beagles for Peace” standing on the steps by the ‘Christmas tree’. Other beagle owners were coming from every direction and the cuteness was attracting a lot of attention from those passing by.

After it calmed down a bit I went up to one of them, Andrij Bovkun and asked what was going on. He smiled at me and said it was quite a funny story. His daughter was watching a children’s show on a Russian channel, and the show has a dog called Phil. In this particular episode, Phil was preparing to go to war and had a little backpack and was all dressed up. A Russian woman on the show explained to the children that Phil is going to defend his borders because it is very important. This was all propaganda directed at children about the situation in Crimea.

Bovkun’s dog was incidentally also named Phil, so he gathered several other beagle owners initiated this unofficial event. This event was made as a response to the Russian TV show – Russian dog Phil is preparing to go to war, while this Ukrainian Phil is promoting peace. It was a really nice and original way to spread a message of peace, especially to the children who had watched the show.

But before you are overwhelmed by the cute pictures and the sweet message, think about why the father did this. He saw that propaganda was being spread to the most susceptible members of society, children. Worst of all, it was being spread through a seemingly harmless TV show. If a person is brainwashed like this from a young age, what sort of person do they grow up to be? Maybe Putin was brought up on similar propaganda. There are a lot of serious problems going on in Ukraine right now, but something like this shouldn’t be overlooked. Some Russian news channels have been banned in Ukraine for skewing the truth. Russian children’s channels should definitely be monitored and reviewed – and if other cases of such propaganda are discovered, then there is no question about them needing to be banned from public television immediately.

Originally posted at: https://olenakaguiukraine2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/beagles-for-peace/

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Yanukovich’s House – War in Ukraine

Today I attempted to enter Yanukovych’s house even though it is indefinitely closed by the government. They want to investigate what was found there and make preparations to turn it into more of a museum for those interested. It took an hour to drive there and I spent twenty minutes trying to get let in. Other people also came and argued with the guards – even when we tried together, the answer was still ‘no’… Under the old government, you could do and get almost anywhere even if it was against the law. The most common ways were name-dropping, bribing and threatening.

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

Today I attempted to enter Yanukovych’s house even though it is indefinitely closed by the government. They want to investigate what was found there and make preparations to turn it into more of a museum for those interested. It took an hour to drive there and I spent twenty minutes trying to get let in. Other people also came and argued with the guards – even when we tried together, the answer was still ‘no’.

I was very disappointed because I wanted to see the house I read so much about. But on my way home I realized that there is something very positive about what happened today. Under the old government, you could do and get almost anywhere even if it was against the law. The most common ways were name-dropping, bribing and threatening.

But the new government made bribes strictly illegal. This new law is constantly mentioned on news and radio stations. People are doing what they can to be as different as possible from the old government. Even less important laws are being taken extremely seriously. People finally want change and are actively making it a reality.

I still have a hard time imagining Ukraine functioning completely without bribes. In the past even going to the doctor used to require it. Healthcare stayed free even after Communism ended, but if you wanted a guarantee that the doctor would examine you properly you needed to bring: chocolates, alcohol and money as “a friendly gesture”.

I will still try to make phone calls to see if there’s any legal way for me to get into the house, but what I witnessed today showed me that Ukraine really is changing.

Here’s an article with pictures and a video of his house: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2568468/The-spoils-corruption-The-opulent-valuable-downright-gaudy-artefacts-former-home-ousted-Ukrainian-president-Viktor-Yanukovich.html

Originally published here: https://olenakaguiukraine2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/access-denied/

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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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.

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

“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 Ukraine must show the world that it is strong and must act on what is happening. “We need to look for protection within 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

This was originally published here: https://olenakaguiukraine2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/hanna-herman/

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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