Ukraine: When Violence Visits Your Own Home

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Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the central square in Kyiv where opposition protesters have been camped out since November 2013.

When you read novels about destruction, revolution, or dystopian realities, if well written they cause you to feel real fear. The terror seems alive because, in your mind’s eye, you can imagine what that destruction and turmoil would look like in your own home, your own country. Classics like Fahrenheit 451 and 1984, popular literature like The Hunger Games trilogy, and films like V for Vendetta have all created revolutions, post apocalyptic realities, and extreme violence in the imagined worlds I’ve inhabited while immersed in the stories.

But in the last few weeks, I’ve no longer had to imagine this horror. It’s happening, if not immediately around me, then around the places in which I recently lived, and the people I love more than I can express. My country, the place I lovingly call my adopted motherland, is literally burning.

My heart is breaking as I watch Ukraine.

Today I taught lessons at school; I commuted to work; I had lunch with teachers. Tonight I’m going to dinner with colleagues to celebrate the start of February vacation. But my head is not in those places. I feel like I’m walking around in a dream. Right now, I can think of nothing but Ukraine.

Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the central square in Kyiv where opposition protesters have been camped out since November 2013.
Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the central square in Kyiv where opposition protesters have been camped out since November 2013.

I’m not going to fill this post with facts and figures, except to say that in the last couple days, the situation in Ukraine has escalated quickly, and reports say that upwards of 100 people have been killed. Maidan Nezalezhnosti (translated literally as Independence Square), renamed EuroMaidan by protesters, and often referred to as just the Maidan in the news, is a war zone. It is literally burning. I’ve spent time there: I’ve been to the modern mall that sits below it, played tour guide there to family when they visited Kyiv, and sat in cafes on hot summer nights right in the square’s center. Now that same square is darkened by soot and burning tires, the surrounding buildings are blackened and scorched, the cobblestones and cement slabs of the street have been pulled up and used as weapons.

Can you imagine what such destruction and violence would look like in your own home?

I don’t have to. It’s happening for real, on the news, before my own eyes.

Please pray for Ukraine. Please write your congressmen and women. Please just educate yourself and see what the New York Times, or CNN, or the BBC is saying about what is going on. Read the articles on KyivPost, the English language news source in Ukraine (whose site is sometimes taken down by the government, although it still manages to keep reappearing). Scroll through these pictures of what Kyiv looks like today. Read my own blog posts about the beautiful country that is Ukraine. Please ask me questions. I’m happy to share with you what I love, and what I know, about Ukraine.

Ukraine is a country that has suffered, really suffered, in the last 100 or so years. Today her people are standing up and trying to tell the world that they’re sick of quasi-dictatorships that make life easy for the country’s leaders, while leaving the rest of the people to struggle, starve, freeze, and pay exorbitant bribes. They are tired of shady deals made in back rooms and of a government that doesn’t listen to the people. Ukraine’s discontent has turned bloody, and violent, and scary. It’s made me cry; it’s made me fear for my friends there; it’s caused me to walk through life in a daze. I’m a guarded bundle of nerves and fear. I feel like life here in France is happening around me as opposed to to me; I’m numb to my own daily details.

This post hasn’t been eloquent or well written, and I’m sorry for that. But these tides of feeling keep crashing inside of me. They have overtaken me, and overflown onto this screen.

Yesterday, I was accepted to a grad school that was one of my top choices. Normally, I’d be ecstatic. And in a way I am. But more than anything, I just don’t know what to do with that emotion. I’m already so filled with fear, nervousness, and incredible pain for what’s happening in my beloved Ukraine. Right now, my own news doesn’t seem to matter.

I’ve watched major events happen in the world: hurricanes, tidal waves, wars, death. I’ve never felt before like they were happening to me. This time I do. And this time, I want others to feel it too.

Show Ukraine that those who have died in the last few weeks have not died in vain.

Show Ukraine that democracy, and stability, and (ironically) peace, is worth fighting for.

Share this post, read an article, write a government representative.

Glory to Ukraine! Glory to her heros! Ще не вмерла Україна!

You can watch live what’s going on in Kyiv here (from Espreso TV with Ukrainian language commentary).

Click here for a photo of what Maidan Nezalezhnosti looked like before and after the last few months of protest.

Follow Christopher Miller on Twitter: an RPCV and current reporter for Kyiv Post.

And read my posts from this time in 2011(My Answer Is Yes) and 2012 (The Meaning of COLD) while I was living in Sosnivka, Ukraine as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

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10 thoughts on “Ukraine: When Violence Visits Your Own Home

  1. I have been watching the news and know what is going on and it, too, breaks my heart. But, honestly, I am so thankful to God that you are not there, Alexandra! I have said that many times to several people – “I’m glad my niece is not still living in Ukraine”. That’s honestly how I feel. I feel for the people, especially the ones you know and love. It is a terrible situation and I hope all this does some good for the people. I also hope that you were deeply affected by what happened to the USA on September 11 – I know you’re not thinking of that but USA is your birth country. I am glad you got accepted to the grad school of your choice; which one? You can privately email me if you don’t want the news out yet. Take care, dear, and know that we are praying for you and for the Ukraine country and people…peace for all! Love, Aunt Shirley

    1. Thanks as always for reading, and for your thoughts! I know my family and friends in the States are glad I’m no longer in Ukraine. But it doesn’t keep a part of me from wishing I could be with my loved ones there right now as they go through this turbulent time in their country’s history.

    1. Thanks for reading and reposting Tammela. I’d been struggling to put my thoughts to words for the last few weeks, and yesterday as I was watching and reading about how things had escalated, my emotions just exploded onto the page.

  2. Reblogged this on Wherever I am, you are there also and commented:
    Sasha, who was a PCV in Ukraine at the same time I was, shares her powerful thoughts and feelings on the current situation in Ukraine. Please read her entire post. Here’s an excerpt to get you going:

    “Please pray for Ukraine. Please write your congressmen and women. Please just educate yourself and see what the New York Times, or CNN, or the BBC is saying about what is going on. Read the articles on KyivPost, the English language news source in Ukraine (whose site is sometimes taken down by the government, although it still manages to keep reappearing). Scroll through these pictures of what Kyiv looks like today. Read my own blog posts about the beautiful country that is Ukraine. Please ask me questions. I’m happy to share with you what I love, and what I know, about Ukraine.”

  3. Pingback: Fight | WonderLust

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