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Ukraine Revolutionaries Vow to Stay in Kyiv's Maidan

  • Gabe Joselow

Ukrainian activists who fought for change in their capital's Independence Square are refusing to leave the public space that became the focal point of anti-government protests which in February toppled a pro-Moscow government and paved the way for a new one to take charge.

For members of a self-defense group from the Ukrainian city of Odessa, the revolution is not over.

Defying orders to tear down one of the many barricades still blocking the roads in downtown Kyiv, they say they will stay until they are sure the political reforms they fought for have taken hold.

One fighter, Kostya, says he gave up everything for the struggle and is not ready to go back.

"I lost my job. I have separated from my family. I left Odessa and I did not leave for nothing. I left to fight for my motherland so that Ukraine will be united," says Kostya.

They came from across Ukraine in bands called "hundreds," setting up tents and barriers in Kyiv's Maidan, or Independence Square, to call for change.

Stacks of bricks and tires remain from the February protests that forced the ousting of Russian-backed leader Viktor Yanukovych.

A new president, Petro Poroshenko, is set to take office this week.

Meantime, the country's attention has turned toward the smoldering battle with pro-Russian separatists in the east and the government has asked citizens to join the fight.

Some activists in Maidan say they supported the cause, but are not going anywhere.

Konstantin Klymashenko heads a civilian group that cooked meals throughout the protests.

"There will be certain rotation. People from the east will come here to rest and people from here will go there to fight. And we will just keep feeding them," says Konstantin.

The Maidan serves another role - as a living memorial. The streets are lined with a growing number of dedications to some 100 protesters killed in battles with police - a group known as the "heavenly hundred."

In their memory, some activists want to establish the square as a center for continued political discussion.

Ivan Kukurudziak says those who gave their lives fought for more than just a change of leadership.

"When Yanukovych left it was just a process, it was not a win. And when Poroshenko becomes president it's not a win, it's just a process. So Maidan should be a place of activism, of innovation and propositions until the dreams of the people who died will come true," says Kukurudziak.

Kukurudziak wants to see a permanent place here for the organizations that supported the cause.

But not everyone agrees that Maidan should stay. Anita, a medical student, helped injured protesters during the demonstrations. She says the square has already served its purpose.

"I think that right now Maidan is not needed and if people will need it, they will come out again. Now I do not think Maidan is playing any role," says Anita.

The city is ready to move on and the new mayor has called for Maidan to be cleared. But it may be harder to convince those who believe - or who want to believe - that there is still a battle here to be fought.

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