Memoirs of a Little Revolutionary Pt. 4

Read parts one, two, and three.

After the second rally, people knocked down the statue of Lenin in the center of Kiev. It was a sign that we ‘d had enough of the Soviet Union and its terror. Two days before this, Yanukovych had agreed with Putin for a $15 billion loan and, thus, effectively surrendered Ukraine to Russia. Police opened 50 criminal cases on the protesters on Bankova. The people who were beaten by Berkut were taken straight from the hospital to jail, even if they were unconscious. Their trial was conducted at night, without lawyers. Maidan continued to stand. On the eve of the first assault of the security forces, the Khreschatyk and the Independence Square stations were closed. Allegedly, they were mined, but the bomb wasn`t found. It limited our ways of getting to the Square, but people kept coming. Together till the end.

 

December 10-11, 2013

maidan 3Maidan became a routine for us: we spent every free hour of every day there. However, this night was unusual. At 11 p.m. we saw an announcement on one of the opposition leader’s sites saying that the Maidan would be assaulted that night. People coordinated through the Internet, and little groups began to gather on the Maidan. The more of us, we figured, the greater the chance we had of withstanding. My mother was totally against my going to the Independence Square, so I had to lie and say that I was going to spend the night at my friend’s house. I wasn’t really afraid for my safety at the time; there were a lot of men who were ready to protect the girls with their lives.

Upon arrival, we started to work. Each one of us was given a shovel, and we began to clear the snow off the roads for safety, pick up trash from the streets, and so on. Men fortified barricades with pieces of wood, snow, ice, and basically everything we had on hand.

At 1 a.m. the security forces and Berkut broke through the barricades on Instytutska Street. They were situated on a hill while we were waiting for them down the street, so they had the advantage. Our main aim was to not let them break into the center of the Maidan where the stage was, our light in the darkness. Women gathered around it, and the men bordered us, making a defense line.

The bell-ringer of the St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery rang the alarm, and people on the Independence Square started to chant “Kiev, get up!” It seemed like the whole city wasn’t sleeping that night.

When the Berkut came closer, the self-defense units started to resist them. By that time, the Maidan was full of dumpers. Everything happened very slowly; we repelled the security forces, and then they repelled us. It was impossible to see which side was winning. We didn’t know how long this attack would last. Minutes passed, then hours, and the end of it seemed too far away.

At first it seemed hopeless; the Berkut was fully armed while we were freezing, only having some helmets for protection. No one used sticks, but the stun grenades and gas cartridges exploded now and then.

Around 3 a.m. we were almost pushed to the stage, and the confrontation temporarily halted. The Berkut removed barricades that we left behind. But, by this time, Kiev people began to gather; they had found out about what was happening from the Internet or the TV. That night there were about 30 thousand people on the Maidan.

We began to think about the next step and how to fix the situation. Then we got the idea to take the advantage of the weather conditions and arrange a trap for the Berkut and security officials. We spread a huge buckram on the ground and filled it with water. In seconds, it turned to ice and became impossible to walk on it.

maidanThe Berkut tried to free the Trade Unions Building from the protesters, but their self-defense was very effective, and the Berkut’s operation ended up unsuccessful. There were a lot of victims who were carried away on stretchers. Security officials or protesters – it didn’t matter. Many complained of suffocation from smoke bombs and of tear gas burns. Many had a heartache from nerves. One Berkut soldier became ill, and activists carried him to the doctor and then helped him to get to his people. While we stood wall-to-wall with Berkut, the utility workers removed the tent city and barricades. Titushkas came and began to rob tents. Those who lived in them lost almost all of their possessions, along with their documents.

At 6 a.m. the subway finally started to work, but only as a transfer station, and Khreschatyk with Independence Square continued to be closed. The official reason: public gatherings at the station. But the flow of arriving people didn’t stop. The press said that the Berkut did not use any weapons or grenades against the protesters, blaming the revolutionaries in all this commotion. By 8 in the morning, we were tired and exhausted; adrenaline was the only thing keeping us upright.

Active fighting had stopped, and we went back to cleaning the area, even though the Berkut never left.

Our rally was forbidden by the government; but, nevertheless, they created their own rally in the Mariinsky park, near the Maidan, in favor of the ruling Party of Regions. While the utility workers removed the barricades in one part of the Maidan, the protesters made a new one in the other part; we took benches, bags of soil, anything that could strengthen them. The City Hall, which was also captured by the protesters, was surrounded by Berkut, but they could not get inside. Activists on the second floor found a hose and started watering the police, but they continued to stand.

At 10 a.m. Berkut and security forces began to disperse. The protesters decided to “help” them and pushed their buses away from the Maidan. We had some losses, but the important thing was that we withstood. This gave us hope; barricades can be rebuilt, and the night had shown that people were always ready to help and come to our defense. Standing only in helmets and warm jackets, we were not afraid to resist. Nobody was running. No matter what the government was hoping to gain from this attack, their operation had ended in complete failure. Rather than weaken us, this attack had only strengthened the Maidan.

More and more people from other cities were coming in Kiev: 30,000 from Lviv, 10,000 from Chernivtsi, and 5,000 from Lugansk region. We brought them into our houses, or they remained in the camp on the Maidan — which was quickly restored.

Truth: What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. With each of the government’s attacks, we were joined by more people. We didn’t win a war, but we did win a battle.

Videos documenting these events can be found here and here. Please be cautioned that they contain raw images of graphic violence and police brutality.

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