The date of the 18th of February 2014 when the security forces started to storm the center of Kyiv, is remembered by everyone who was there in a special way. Volunteer, teacher Ulyana Fedoryachenko tells us about what she saw, and still is going through and thinking it over and over again ...No doubt, up for today the events of protesters’ camp storming on Independence Square has been documented to the minutest detail, recreating a clear sequence of events. But then, two years ago, when the first blood was shed, it was not clear what was going on and everything was in a blur. Probably those who watched the broadcast on the Internet or on TV, saw, heard and understood more than the actual participants of street fighting.
A lot of people arrived to the Independence Square that day but not all of them came prepared for the oncoming tragedy. Pupils of the high school, universities’ students, public employees, entrepreneurs, pensioners ... They came when called. Juliana, who was 25, was there from the very beginning—from the student gatherings at Independence Stella. Ulyana had to spend the night next to it (to the Stella). But the night passed quietly, and the next morning soldiers of "Berkut" began to use batons in order to disperse young people. Here is her story:
At that time everything seemed so naive and peaceful—flags, songs, Ukrainian flower wreaths ... I began to go there with my friends, bringing medicine, food ... At the House of Trade Unions there was the tent "Crimea", the tent of Mariupol was there ... we poured hot tea ...And on February the 18 they met to participate at the Dignity March. Guys, with whose group Juliana participated in the event, were in helmets, with batons and bats. She did not ask why they brought them—after beating the students and it was clear that the worse was coming to the worst ... We set off from Maidan along Institutska street, then turned to Hrushevskij street to the government buildings.
...And we went up the Instytutska street. At the beginning there was a meeting at Mariinsky park—speeches were presented from the cars ... And there was "Berkut"—standing as if making the fence. We could not see titushki ... and at some point someone threw a bomb, we heard either shot or explosion. At that moment the battling started ...Was it clear—who threw the bomb and from where?
No, of course ... The girls were not allowed near the place where protesters stood against the soldiers of "Berkut". There was such a crowd! And if someone said something or of someone felt that a “physical pressure” seemed to be applied, people immediately used force ... it was already impossible [to understand what was happening] ... And when the shots began, we—the girls—had been pushed back ... The smoke was already everywhere, and tear gas, all began to cough ...
Then there came the moment of silence. One girl and I ran to buy the water at the store. We gave it to the boys to drink ... Then the fight exploded once again. And there were the first victims, one of the protesters had a wounded eye ...Ulyana and I are talking sitting on a bench in Shevchenko park. Children are playing, pensioners are sitting nearby leaned over the chessboards. And she seems to be looking as if through them—through the time—into the past. And although she constantly repeats that it was not scary, I clearly understand, that that day had divided her life into "before" and "after."
Maybe she really did not have time to be afraid: girls helped the wounded to reach the place where the doctors provided help, ran to the pharmacies and medical centers of Maidan in search of essential medicines, water and were bringing—up from Maidan—the sandwiches to have a snack.
We needed spray for the eyes damaged by smoke, some eye drops ... First we bought them at Arsenalna Square. Then the wounded needed very expensive drugs [the money we had were not enough for buying them], so we ran down, looking or them at medical help centers of Maidan: at October Palace, at the House of Trade Unions ... It had to be done very quickly, and the hill is ... so high and steep ...Generally speaking, they had to run fast and long distances. In order to imagine clearly the route the girls covered, it should be remembered that Maidan—from the topographical point of view—is a low-lying area between several very steep hills. Many streets, particularly Instytutska, are leading up from Maidan. The distance to the building of Verkhovna Rada (it can be reached from the Institutska street as well as from the European Square along Hrushevskij street)—is more than 1 km, the distance to underground station "Arsenalna" is 2.5 km. The Officers’ House is near the Ukrainian Parliament (Verkhovna Rada). October Palace is standing on the top of the highest hill over Maidan, and the Ukrainian House on the European Square is "embedded" in the steep slope of Vladimir's Hill. Using the street passing next to it, one can climb to the Catholic Church, and then—to St. Michael's Cathedral ...
In the Trade Unions’ [building at the Maidan, which was burnt to the ground in the very evening] we received the box with medicines and water, we dragged it up to Officers’ House. Then we saw that in Instytutska street a building was in flames ...
The wave of the terrible arrived. Everything was black ... Protesters tried to send us back home, saying "it is not the right place for you now." The pavement was already dismantled, and the protesters began to throw the pieces in bus where the members off "Berkut" were ... Now I remember it clearly—and at that moment everything was in a blur. The events were coming one after another very quickly ...The girls returned to the Maidan, but did not stay there for a long time, because they took sandwiches to the stadium "Dynamo", " ...where our guys are, keeping defenses."
We set off, and people were beginning to run in panic on us, and we did not understand what was happening. Someone shouted: "Please come back," Berkut has broken through the defense, they are already coming!" And we saw that they were all coming from the mountains descending en masse, and our guys could not keep them anymore ...
We somehow didn’t throw away the box with sandwiches, turned around and ran with it to the Ukrainian House. And the thought dashed in my head that it was dangerous to run there—in a closed space,—because if the soldiers of "Berkut" would enter there, we would be trapped ... So we rushed into the place shouting, ' "Berkut" is approaching inside now, tell everyone!" And at all levels people were beginning to gather.
We went to the wounded. They were on one of the upper floors and they had to be evacuated. It was hard, both physically and morally: a lot of stairs, and we couldn’t transport down the guy with a wound on his head. We decided as follows: there was a slope behind the house using which we could reach the church. So we smashed windows on the second floor and four men dragged the wounded down the steep on the sheet ... and all the girls were pushed through and evacuated from that window ...
In short, we hid in the church. Then [the priests] began to ring the bells ...
That young man was put in the church hall, we began to call an ambulance, and still we were very worried, because the fighters were often stolen from hospitals—and put at trial. So we tried to choose the hospital that would be safe ...All this time Ulyana’s mother had been constantly phoning her.
And I could not tell her what was going on, because I did not tell her that I was going to participate in the Dignity March and there was a battle in the center of Kiev. I told her only that I would come home soon ... And while we were in the Catholic Church, the fight started at the Independence Square—the evening was coming. And they opened fire and buildings were in flames ... The House of Trade Unions was in fire ...
We could go out through the top [through St. Michael's Square reaching Lvivska Square, and then back home—along Turgenivska street). I did not want to go away. ‘There is something going on, and I am escaping?!’ But I was in a kind of a shock, I felt my impotence. And my mother said, "I'll come and fetch you home!" And that decision was crucial for me. Because if she came there ... with her weak heart ... So my friend and I came to my house and we were watching the broadcast from Maidan all the night ...
And in those days [when there were fights] I did not go there anymore. I did not know how I could help. And the mother said, "You will hurt me! If you go there I will die." If it were not for that, I would have been there. It was the only day, and it still hurts me.
"Even if everything was planned, the people make it in their own way"Many people are now disappointed with the way everything turned out. There were a lot of talk was that everything was a performance organized with someone’s money. Looking back, what is your evaluation of the events?
Now I understand that Maidan was organized not by people themselves. Then it seemed that we manage the process. In fact, now I see it as a very clear sequence of events when there was a necessity to stir people up, and every time it seemed like adding some tragic event to awake more people to protest ... It means somebody planned it long ago. And I do not think he was paid for it. Of course, someone had a certain idea, but people, even if aware of it, went for it, because they believed that they had no right to stand apart from the events taking place in their city, in their country.
We did the right thing. After all, if we assume that we are totally passive and nothing depends on us, so we can simply keep silence and stay at home, your life will not change. It was impossible not to take part in it! And besides, the events on Maidan Square went not as someone planned, as someone wanted them to develop. Even if Maidan was planned, the people had it in their own way.And when did the turning point happen?
I cannot say exactly, I just know it's gone not as one would like to ... I think it was planned that it would end much earlier. Maidan continued because very active people organized themselves. A small world was formed—with kitchens, medical centers, with confrontation to the assaults. People defended their position much longer than anyone expected.So it seems that it did not have to come to such a tragic end, to such a confrontation, to death and victims?
Yes, I do not think anyone was planning such a bloody end. They thought that young people would be dispersed and everything would calm down ...Since then much has changed, we lost the Crimea, we are stuck in a war, people are very unhappy with the current government, in fact, those who came to the political leadership on the wave of Maidan’s revolutionary changes ... Is it possible that we will face another Maidan confrontation? And if it is are you going to participate in it?
No. I will not go, because it is detrimental now. If we have the war in one part of the country and Maidan in the other, it means that Ukraine can be taken just with bare hands. It will only help the aggressor. And it will destabilize the situation in the country.
"If the next Maidan takes place, it will not be singing, traditional wreaths and tea. It will be very bloody and scary "
If this will end soon, all the same there will be the movement of soldiers coming from the antiterrorists’ battle zone. They are dissatisfied with authority, because they saw much more than we can imagine here ... They see how the army is NOT provided all this time. They see how the ceasefire goes... Here we hear on TV that it is so good, that Poroshenko signed a truce again, and they see another reality—the largest losses were exactly during the truces.
Once I wished with all my heart that Poroshenko would become the President! I supported him, I thought he was a diplomat, he would know how the lead the country out of destruction. But unfortunately diplomacy is not playing into the hands of [the people]. I just heard the guys [from ATO] and what they said ... they are not given the opportunity to fight properly, they are not provided with anything, they are not entitle to shoot. They say that they could end the war quickly. But they are simply not allowed to do that.
Therefore, the movement will be for sure. They will return when the war ends, and if anything does not change by that time, they wouldn’t be passive. And if we face the next Maidan, it will last only a few days. It will not be singing, traditional wreaths and tea. But it will be very bloody and scary. And I hope with all my heart that this will not happen ...The conversation was led by Daryna Plotnikova