February 18th Photos – War in Ukraine

These pictures are from February 18th, when a large number of people lost their lives. Tetiana Kagui was one of the many people who gathered to go up to Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, to demand them to return to the 2004 Constitution. She was the one who took all these pictures…

February 18th Photos was made possible thanks to the grant I received from the Prague Freedom Foundation to report on the Ukrainian Euromaidan Revolution in March 2014.

These pictures are from February 18th, when a large number of people lost their lives. Tetiana Kagui was one of the many people who gathered to go up to Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, to demand them to return to the 2004 Constitution. She was the one who took all these pictures.

Going there everyone anticipated that something bad would happen, they all understood the danger. The pictures are in chronological order. They start out peacefully but the violence begins and escalates until the women are asked to leave the danger zone by the self-organized Maidan protectors. As you look at these pictures imagine shots being fired, gas weapons being used, homemade weapons with exploding nails and fireworks are being used. But if you look at the peoples’ faces, you won’t see fear. Because they know that what they are doing is necessary for the future of Ukraine.

Originally published here: https://olenakaguiukraine2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/february-18th-photos/

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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.

Parliamentary Frustration in Ukraine – War in Ukraine

The deputies were all dressed professionally but not everyone acted the way they looked. Voices were raised, speeches were booed and disrespected and people talked over each other. This can be excused because we are all human and our emotions take over sometimes. But what really surprised me was the lack of initiative that spread through the room as time passed like a common cold…

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

The deputies were all dressed professionally but not everyone acted the way they looked. Voices were raised, speeches were booed and disrespected and people talked over each other. This can be excused because we are all human and our emotions take over sometimes. But what really surprised me was the lack of initiative that spread through the room as time passed like a common cold…

Lawmakers carry on but tensions run high in Kiev: http://www.praguepost.com/eu-news/praguepostnews/eu-news/parliamentary-frustration-in-ukraine

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.

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/

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.

The Story of a Hero: Eduard Kryhov – War in Ukraine

Eduard Kryhov helped out a lot at one of the medical points, and one night, they were told that Berkut was about to storm them. He was had a knee problem at the time and knew he wasn’t able to help carry injured men out to safety. Instead he grabbed a hand-grenade and walked up to where the Berkut could see him. The 64-year-old man showed them what he was holding and said, “Look at me; I have seen all there is to see, I don’t care anymore, if you come in here, we will all die together.” The Berkut did not attack the medical point; Kryhov had saved several lives with his bravery. R.I.P.

The Story of a Hero was made possible thanks to the grant I received from the Prague Freedom Foundation to report on the Ukrainian Euromaidan Revolution in March 2014.

The interviewee was killed in battle in Eastern Ukraine several weeks after this blog post was published. Rest in Peace.

I really wanted to speak to the Afghan war veterans, who were very active at the protests. But the man who had the authority to speak for them wasn’t there yet. So Eduard Kryhov offered to tell me his story and show me one of the field hospitals.

He was in and out of Maidan since it began, alternating between spending time with his wife outside of Kiev, and living in the veteran tent. He helped out a lot at one of the medical points, and one night, they were told that Berkut was about to storm them. He was had a knee problem at the time and knew he wasn’t able to help carry injured men out to safety. Instead he grabbed a hand-grenade and walked up to where the Berkut could see him. The 64-year-old man showed them what he was holding and said, “Look at me; I have seen all there is to see, I don’t care anymore, if you come in here, we will all die together.” The Berkut did not attack the medical point; Kryhov had saved several lives with his bravery.

Kryhov took me to one of the field hospitals at Maidan, where people were still coming to get treated. One man needed stitches removed from his lip and eyebrow, he looked badly beaten. Others came to get dental work done, or to treat a fever or a sprained arm. Kryhov took me into an empty room, made me some tea, offered me bread and showed me pictures of his friends and asked me to put them online. He told me about how he used to live in Prague 9 and Brno and about his wife. He made me see what everyone meant by Maidan uniting people, when we parted ways we hugged each other like old friends.

I was very luck to meet such a wonderful and kind man. He had helped save the country not once but twice – first in Afghanistan and now at Maidan. He taught me that one person can make all the difference in the world.

Originally published here: https://olenakaguiukraine2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/story-of-a-hero/

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.

Flag Parade Review – War in Ukraine

Today I was part of the Flag Parade, and it was a really amazing experience. We met and prepared our flags in Shevchenko park where I met a lot of interesting international people, some who even spoke Russian or Ukrainian. Everyone was mingling, having a great time and most importantly supporting Ukraine. Everyone in the world speaks about the “American Dream”, yet there were Americans who live in Kiev praising Ukraine and its people; saying that they were inspired by Ukrainians. There were short speeches in Ukrainian, Russian, English, German and French. Every speech ended in loud applause. The speaker who welcomed us on stage said, “we might not understand all the words, but support speaks for itself.”

Flag Parade 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 was part of the Flag Parade, and it was a really amazing experience. We met and prepared our flags in Shevchenko park where I met a lot of interesting international people, some who even spoke Russian or Ukrainian. Everyone was mingling, having a great time and most importantly supporting Ukraine.

I spoke with Chris Taylor, one of the organizers from England. He had an English flag with yellow-and-blue ribbons tied to it. He explained that he helped organize the event “to show unity, to show that the international community here does support the new government.”

Taylor has lived in Kiev for four years and he wants “to show that Kiev is not in flames like the Russian media portrays.” He believes that an event like this “is a very visible thing that the international community can do to show support.”

Taylor has supported Ukraine from the beginning of the conflict, and he wants this event to show continued support for Maidan. “Even if Crimea and Russian aggression wasn’t happening, we’d still be supporting Ukraine.”

As we walked through the streets, Ukrainians cheered and thanked everyone for the support. I was pleasantly surprised when someone yelled “Slava Ukrajni” and all around me, expats from at least 20 different countries replied “Herojam Slava”. There was a strong feeling of unity between all of us in the parade and the Ukrainians around us.

When we got to Maidan, some of us got to go on stage and say something to the people. Everyone had really beautiful and supporting things to say. Everyone in the world speaks about the “American Dream”, yet there were Americans who live in Kiev praising Ukraine and its people; saying that they were inspired by Ukrainians. There were short speeches in Ukrainian, Russian, English, German and French. Every speech ended in loud applause. The speaker who welcomed us on stage said, “we might not understand all the words, but support speaks for itself.” Once everyone who wished to had spoken, they played the Ukrainian national anthem, and everyone joined in to sign it. I had never witnessed something so amazing.

I would like to thank Christ Taylor, Anders Östlund and everyone who organized and participated in this event. Since November 21st Ukrainians have been showing the world what they are capable of – having the international community acknowledge and support Ukraine is extremely gratifying. It gives the Ukrainian nation even more strength and hope.

Originally published here: https://olenakaguiukraine2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/flag-parade/

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.

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/

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.

Afghan War Veterans – War in Ukraine

Oleh Michney told me that protests started with students who were living below normal standards. When they were beaten for protesting, their parents and grandparents were angered and joined the protests. “We don’t support any political party,” Michnev said, “we stand between protesters and aggressors to avoid the spilling of blood, and we of all people understand the value of blood.”

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

I spoke to Oleh Michnev, the head of the Afghan war veterans. He was very busy and was holding an important meeting, but Eduard who I wrote about in a previous article got me a few minutes with him.

When I asked him what role the Afghan war veterans played at Maidan he said, “Roles are for actors in theaters, we are Ukrainians and our most important function is to protect Ukraine.” He said that an unjust was done to Ukraine and the veterans want “European standards, not Yanukovych’s standards.” He went on to explain that under Yanukovych there were six different living standards depending on who you were, and those who have the least would get the least governmental support, and this is not the European way.

He told me that protests started with students who were living below normal standards. When they were beaten for protesting, their parents and grandparents were angered and joined the protests. “We don’t support any political party,” Michnev said, “we stand between protestors and aggressors to avoid the spilling of blood, and we of all people understand the value of blood.”

I asked him when they will leave Maidan. “We will leave last,” he said, “we are used to fighting for life.” He explained that Ukrainians can’t trust anyone; some of the politicians could be “wolves hiding in sheepskin.” They won’t leave “until the promises of new politicians are fulfilled.” They believe that it’s necessary not only to change the government but the entire system. They want a “birth of a new system,” he says, adding, “we will stand until then.”

Originally published here: https://olenakaguiukraine2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/afghan-war-veterans/

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.

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/

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.

Flag Parade for Ukraine – War in Ukraine

Tomorrow I will participate in a Flag Parade. This will be the 5th parade created by the international community living in Kiev and the goal of it is to “show support for ‘new’ Ukraine”. They wish to “draw media attention to disprove any lies regarding the make-up of the new legitimate government.” The Flag Parade shows support for “a united Ukraine, a complete Ukraine, including Crimea.”

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

“We support a united Ukraine, a complete Ukraine, including Crimea.”

Tomorrow I will participate in a Flag Parade. This will be the 5th parade created by the international community living in Kiev and the goal of it is to “show support for ‘new’ Ukraine”. They wish to “draw media attention to disprove any lies regarding the make-up of the new legitimate government.”

The Flag Parade shows support for “a united Ukraine, a complete Ukraine, including Crimea.”

Last Sunday there were over 300 people and a total of 42 countries were represented. This time they are hoping to get more! 250 people have already confirmed their attendance on Facebook and there are many maybes.

I will be there too, waving a Czech flag and hopefully interviewing the expat community in Ukraine. If you are in Ukraine, you should join. It starts in Shevchenko Park at 11:30am, Sunday, March 16th.

Originally published here: https://olenakaguiukraine2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/we-support-a-u/

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.

Maidan Graffiti – War in Ukraine

It was painful looking at how many flowers and candles people had brought – you can feel the sorrow and imagine them holding back tears or breaking down and bawling as they bring those flowers. Everyone expresses grief differently, and what pulled at my heart strings the most wasn’t the number of flowers or even the poem that I found among the candles. Right at the end of the official memorial wall, I saw 3 words graffitied on the wall that made me stop and stare at them for the longest time. They translate to “Mom I will return.”

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

Right now there are two places in Kiev where you can see what remains of Maidan. It is mostly left for tourists to get a feel for what happened and as a memorial to those who died. Yesterday I saw the smaller one.

It was painful looking at how many flowers and candles people had brought – you can feel the sorrow and imagine them holding back tears or breaking down and bawling as they bring those flowers. Not everyone necessarily knew the protesters who died personally. Some people saw them die, or remember their face from attending a protest, some just cry at the unfairness of these people dying for a better future that they won’t get a chance to see.

Everyone expresses grief differently, and what pulled at my heart strings the most wasn’t the number of flowers or even the poem that I found among the candles. Right at the end of the official memorial wall, I saw 3 words graffitied on the wall that made me stop and stare at them for the longest time. They translate to “Mom I will return.”

Originally published here: https://olenakaguiukraine2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/maidan-graffiti/

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.