Yesterday, civic activists held a meeting at Taras Shevchenko monument to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the event which in 2013 burst unexpectedly for Ukraine and was even more nonpresumable for Kharkiv – the Revolution of Dignity.
“Do you know that Euromaidan started earlier in Kharkiv than in Kyiv? People got out on the streets on November 19,” says an elderly lady with a yellow and blue flag on her shoulders when I come up to those gathered at the monument’s base turned into a stage for the festive performance. There is about a hundred of people – much fewer than that historic winter.
I certainly remember those days in November when the expectations of new prospects after EU Association agreement mixed with anxiety that then pro-Russian government of Ukraine wouldn’t sign it. To thrust the process, Kharkivites came out to Maidan Svobody in front of the building of Regional Administration on November 19, 2013, and called on the Ukrainian authorities to sign the agreement.
Mass ardent protests started later, since night November 21 when Azarov’s government announced the refusal to follow the European course. Losing hopes was painful and unbearable. In Kharkiv, regular peaceful spontaneous gatherings started at Taras Shevchenko monument, becoming more numerous with each day in winter 2013-2014. The slogan “Taras Uniting Us” was born then.
Interestingly, local mass media ignored Kharkiv Maidan or wrote that there was only “a handful of nationalists” instead of reporting on many-thousand protests in Kharkiv, fearing to upset the central authorities which were losing the control over the situation.
Also, it was significant that the main protesters’ demands were concerning system changes, fighting against corruption and for protecting human rights rather than rising economic issues. The reaction of the system was cruel and bloody.
“This is not a holiday. This is a memory day, a day to remember the people’s enthusiasm, the Heavenly Hundred heroes’ sacrifice, the soldiers’ deeds. And to continue fighting for our country,” says civic activist Yurii Pavlenko, one of the Kharkiv Euromaidan’s organizers.
We discuss the current split of Kharkiv activists by two groups – those, who believe that actual authorities are doing their best to make Ukraine a thriving European country despite all internal and external obstacles and war with Russia, and those who think that reforms are moving too slowly and blame the government in the person of President Poroshenko for turning the country “back to Kuchma” and for “reluctance to ruin the corrupted system.” The first say of a newly built Ukrainian Army, police, visa-free travel to Europe, the second point out at the persisting of criminal schemas of stealing budget money and persecution of opposing activists.
The case is more like the common situation with “half full or half empty glass” when an optimistic or pessimistic attitude depends rather on personal mindset than an objective situation. However, requirements of the second “half” to establish the Anticorruption Court till 2018 concurs with the guidance of the Venice Commission and might become the acid test on reforms in Ukraine and efficiency of the actual Ukrainian power.
It appears that people come to this year Euromaidan anniversary to communicate to each other more than to discuss the results of revolution. “Which results? Maidan is not over, the fighting’s going on. The war’s going on. The main result is that we’ve got the chance to change our country, but it is neither an easy nor fast thing to do,” say the people. They are hopeful about their future, particularly when they remember as their joint efforts had led to considerable historical changes already.
Text, photo: Olena Sokolynska