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    Posted March 15, 2014 by
    Kyiv, Ukraine
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Ukraine unrest

    MaiaKiev and 14 other iReporters contributed to Open Story: Ukraine crisis as it unfolds
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    Courageous and Forgiving Heart of Ukraine

    Kozak Mykhailo Gavryluk, one of the heroes of Maidan, came to Kiev to participate in protests in the beginning of December right after he saw on TV how the students had been beaten by riot police on Nov 30th.

    On January 23rd he was on Grushevskogo Street during riot police attacks on protesters. He was retreating among the last trying to pick up a man wounded by a grenade explosion. But he himself got captured by riot police.

    He was stripped naked on the snow in -20C weather. They sent him between rows of police who beat him with sticks as he staggered ahead. Police made him sing National Ukrainian Anthem standing naked in the snow. He was surrounded by mocking uniformed men who in the beginning of their careers in police swore to protect Ukraine and Ukrainians. They cut his hair with a knife and took photos and videos with this tortured and beaten man.

    Police was so sure that they would not be held responsible for their atrocities that in the evening of the same day some of them posted on their social media pages the video of tortures of Mykhailo Gavryluk! Every TV channel showed that video and every Ukrainians watching it cried with rage and contempt for riot police. Each one of us felt violated as if this was done not just to Mykhailo, but to each Ukrainian personally.

    Maybe that was the day when we understood that Yunukovich regime really ended. Regime showed its true face and its true intentions. It was trying to humiliate and crush us, to make us feel weak and helpless, but instead we saw that they can only take away our clothes, they can only beat and torture us but through that the spirit and courage only stood taller. We didn’t feel humiliated and weak, we felt proud and strong!

    Patriarch Filaret of Ukrainian Orthodox Church commented on the video in one of news programs. He said that Kozak Mykhailo was a symbol of Ukraine – it was our beloved country stripped naked, beaten and tortured, alone, facing scores of armed enemies but not broken, not humiliated, keeping head high and singing from the heart the words of our anthem "we will lay our bodies and souls for our freedom!"

    As soon as Mykhailo got free he was back on Maidan, continuing his stand for freedom.

    This week Mykhailo's name was in the news again. One of his torturers was on trial for his actions in January and Mykhailo asked the judge to pardon that man. Mykhailo said that he had forgiven his torturers. I found Mykhailo on Maidan this morning and in my brief conversation with him I was impressed with his humility. He seemed almost shy, but at the same time I felt his inner determination and peace. I asked him what gave him strength to forgive. He told me,

    “The Bible tells us to forgive. I was forgiven by Christ. How can I not forgiven another man even he has wronged me? I don’t want his children to grow without father while he spends 8 years in prison. I withdraw my complaints against him. It’s better to let him raise his children, so that such things are never repeated again,” – said Mykhailo.

    Mykhailo Gavryluk is truly the symbol of the heart of Ukraine - the heart capable of incredible courage and sacrifice, the heart submitted to Christ and therefore capable of forgiveness! No enemy can conquer that kind of heart. Ex-president of Ukraine Yanukovich has broken his neck trying to turn Ukrainians into silent slaves of his regime. Putin will break his neck in Ukraine too!

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