- Posted February 20, 2014 by
Kyiv city, Ukraine
This iReport is part of an assignment:
More than Riots ( a view from Kyiv)
- Verybecoming, CNN iReport producer
Never underestimate, the power of the disenfranchised. Here in Ukraine's capital city of Kyiv, where I have lived for over a month now, tension has been high, support has been fleeting, and hope for a peaceful resolution to the current crisis, has been few and far in between. Many would have you believe that Kyiv particularly the independence square is under siege, surrounded by an opposing force, and under attack from all sides, in a way this may be true. Yet if you were to walk around the city of Kyiv, you may not be aware of any of the violence, as life outside of the square tends to go on, businesses operate, people commute to work, and the overall beauty of the city is still intact highlighted by its wonderful cathedrals, and monuments. If you were to fall asleep in the Maidan and wake up in another part of the city, you may indeed come to believe that it was all one horrible dream. Of course the tension is there, it is unavoidable, and yes there is anger in the voices of those who occupy the square during the night, and must leave and provide for there families during the day. But with that, there is also a sense of pride amongst those who have become embroiled in the thralls of unspeakable violence.
Those who occupy government buildings and quite literally as the world has seen battle police forces and hired thugs meant to cause disruption, are not attacking, they themselves are the one who are under siege. They have not taken the Maidan, they have chosen where they will make there last stand. With barricades of snow, and hand crafted bats, the people have taken a stand for democracy fittingly in a place called independence square. Holding on to every inch of the Maidan, as if every bit that is taken, is a chunk of freedom being stripped away from them, there families, their children, and for countless generations to come. They would rather live for there country but once you get to the front lines, as I have and speak to those who have sacrificed, there work, there safety, maybe even there sanity for this cause, you find that they are indeed prepared to die. Not enlisted soldiers, but I.T professionals, Shop owners, students and the like.
What is not to be lost in this is the fact that Ukraine is a nation that is quite literally split. Marred by systemic corruption and foreign political influence, if you were to speak to someone say from the East of Ukraine, you would here a different story. After all this president was elected, all be it by slim margins with more support from the eastern, predominantly Russian leaning regions of the country. To make things clear, there is no guarantee that removing this president will fix anything. As was the case in Cairo, the protesters, do not speak for the entirety of the country, and in many instances, are not the majority. If the President steps down as did Hosni Mubarak, the violence may end, but there is no guarantee that after elections are held and a constitution amended, that Ukraine will not once again find itself in a post Morsi-like state as Egypt finds itself now. With more violence, and a military that has seized control under the guise of order.
Revolutions are not always what they seem, and in my travels which have taken me from Fiji (military dictatorship) Egypt and protests in turkey's capital city of Istanbul, I have learned that the images we see are only half truths, as what we see is not revolution at all. What we see are the tips of the flames, the heat of the fire, as it burns at times uncontrollably, charring all in its path, women, children, soldiers, rebels, saving in some instances the Earth, for last. You hear the screams, the shattering of glass, and your perspective is lost amongst the cacophony of it all. You see, what we fail to realize, is that revolutions are quiet manifestations if you will, of a whisper. It starts with mutterings, echoes of the past, as the voices slowly merge into verses until at last they converge on one single theme, which in turn, forms a chorus.
By the time we see or hear from the people, by the time the powers that be feel the heat, and hear the songs, entitled Freedom, Liberation, and finally Revolution, the revolution has already ended. What we have at this point, is change, for better or for worse, things will never be the same again.
I am an African American from Washington D.C and in a place like Ukraine, that is typically perceived to be like its Russian neighbors, (less welcoming to those who are different) I have been to an extent accepted, and welcomed. For democracy, and freedom to pursue happiness, are not just American ideals, they are universal, and transcend race, religion, or nationality.
Statistics can be deceptive, and the truth can be adjusted, but when citizens realize that their refusal to speak does not protect them, they join in the same song they had been singing, often for years, in the shadows and alleys, until the conflicts of cognitive dissonance can be ignored no more. Revolutions, in essence occur in the silence, in the dark.
All most of us will ever see are the flames, bright orange and yellow, but we miss the ignition point, that quiet moment, where desperation turns to anger, faint even, like a heart beat, vital and within its soft rhythm, holds all that is essential for life.
Revolutions are not always what they seem, they are fueled not by anger alone, but by hope, love, and visions of what could be. Anything that claims to be done in the name of change, that does not involve these core elements, are merely riots, and rarely do riots change the world. The Ukrainian people aim to change their world, whether that change Is for better or worse has yet to be determined. They will stand ,but they are not fighters, they see themselves as patriots, they are defending the Maidan, which in this instance is its last symbol of hope in a country in which the people no longer have faith in the system, that they give power to. They are organized. They are passionate. They are like this proud country, battered, bruised, but strong, determined, and beautiful.
The violence, will continue, the death toll may rise, and change for better or for worse, is imminent. For Kyiv is a pot of water, left unattended on an open flame for far too long, only now is it bubbling over. It is my hope that the people can somehow manage the damage, contain it, and avoid more bloodshed, and begin to heal. Peacfeul protests must again be made possible, for to borrow from John F. Kennedy, “those who make peaceful revolution impossible, will make violent revolution inevitable.”