Interview by the McDaniel Free Press’ Daniel Valentin-Morales
“Never in my life, was I so emotionally involved, I feel like I should go back to the Ukraine, to help… I don’t want these things to be forgotten.”
The Ukraine has recently been the center of international media attention, concerning the people’s protests in Kiev’s city center. Protests began in Nov. 2013 as peaceful pro-European Union people’s protests, very similar to the peaceful Orange Revolution in 2004, annulling the initial votes won by Viktor Yanukovych which were determined fraudulent, and hosted new elections in which opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko won 52% of the vote. Yanukovych succeeded Yushchenko as president in 2010.
The 2014 protests however took a violent turn when the Berkut police force violently dispersed groups of protesters. The protests then encompassed both the original pro-EU sentiments and an anti-government sentiment that had been bubbling below the surface, especially after the current administration and now-former President Yanukovych, passed a series of Draconian anti-protest laws.
To read more about the protests and their cause click here.
Recently, Yanukovych’s government released political prisoner Yulia Tymoshencko, the first female Ukrainian Prime Minister and leader of the opposition party. She has spoken at various Maidan gatherings.
Maryna Batsman, is an MA student in History at Central European University in Budapest Hungary. She is originally from Lugansk, Eastern Ukraine; she studied five years in Kiev.
I was able to contact Maryna via a friend. Here is a personal account from someone who was at the Maidan (Kiev’s city center) during the peaceful portion of the Euromaidan, and her opinion on what is occurring presently.
Q: When were you in Kiev, during what portion of the protests?
Maryna: When it had just started, 3 months ago as peaceful protests. At that point there were no people who had camps.
Q: Why is this issue important to you personally?
Maryna: Well, it started because of EU agreement and because the President didn’t want to sign it. We had protests set up by students. We were asking the President to sign this agreement. We just wanted to change our President because we understood he wouldn’t change his decision on the deal, mainly because he is a friend of Putin.
The agreement with Russia, is really just at the top of the issue, like an iceberg.
Q: Do you agree with the violent nature the protests took? Did you want this to be more like the Orange Revolution of 2004?
Maryna: This protest is not like the Orange Revolution.
They became very angry, the protestors threw stones at the Berkut, but the Berkut have armor. The violence, however, from the protestors against the police is not equitable to the violence from the police against the protestors.
There were informal leaders who spoke against the use of violence at the beginning and even now.
Q: Do you have any friends who are currently still in the Ukraine? If so, where are they and what are they doing?
Maryna: Yes I have friends of mine in the Ukriane still, we’re from the same university, these guys who are there went back to study. They are still in the Maidan, helping rearrange power. They were wounded but not very severely, some of them are even volunteers in field hospitals.
The Maidan became a major political center, and now the protestors are also facing the question of leaders within the group itself.
Q: Do you trust Yulia, do you think she’s a good leader?
Maryna: People like Yulia, but those in the East of Ukraine will not accept her.
I personally do not trust Yulia Tymoshenko. It’s a good thing that the current government released political prisoners, but she’s unpredictable, and she’s not someone people can rely on. She didn’t participate in crucial moments during the Euromaidan.
Q: Do you trust the leaders who signed deal?
Maryna: I think that it’s a big improvement, because the President did change the constitution (back to the 2004 version). It’s not worth the price of people’s lives, but there are some demands from the radical leaders of the Euromaidan that are unrealistic, this agreement was the optimal way of dealing with the situation.
Most people understand that it was a necessary step.
Q: What about Europe’s response have you anything to say to that?
Maryna: We asked Europe for any kind of help: medical, lawyers, and human rights activists, just to stop the violence by any means. We felt abandoned.
It was not a great horror, but it was a surprise; that while we want to be a part of Europe, Europe would allow this violence to continue without any response. We sent a lot of petitions to different institutions, we asked them to help, and they really did nothing. We would love for people to know more about what’s going on.
Q: Is there anything you would like to tell the rest of the Western world about what’s happening in your country? Anything you would like to comment on?
Maryna: One should be very aware of how news changes about what’s happening in the Ukraine.
I want to say to the U.S.: the killings of my people of my peers, their killings cannot be explained or justified; I don’t want these things to be forgotten.