A Revolution of Dignity

I was thirteen then, and living in the bubble of youth: It was composed of my parents’ house and their loving warmth that kept me safe; a typical middle-schooler life, with its ups and downs; and books, full of stories of great adventurers, detectives, and magicians. Thinking about it now, there is a possibility that I could have stayed there forever, in that tiny little world of mine, if not for the Euromaidan.

Being young, I was unable to fully grasp the idea behind the events, unfolding just a few kilometers away from my house. But I felt every single bit of it on my own skin.

Sitting in front of a TV in 2013, watching the evening news reports with my family became a daily routine. My rowdy imagination fed on the images of blazing, crumbling buildings in the center of Kyiv, contradicting with the ones, that were still fresh in my memory.

Sadly, the experience was not limited to the screen: For weeks, the air smelled of burnt tires. Dazzling flames were our never setting sun. Knowing what to do in case our school came under attack or where to go if an airstrike alert was to appear isn’t something a child my age should be closely familiar with. And as much as I would want this to be just gory nightmare, it will never be one.

It is sometimes odd to remember that this revolutionary page of our country’s history started with a simple Facebook post. Being discontent with President Yanukovich’s decision to revoke the signing of the association agreement with the EU, a local activist spread a simple message. It read:

“Gather under the monument of Independence, show your position. Bring tea, blankets, and a positive attitude.”

As the post went viral, hundreds showed up to Maidan — the central square in Kyiv. This marked the first day of a sustained protest, which would last for 4 months.

Revolutions are made of the people and by the people: And I do not only mean the politicians that gained fame from it. I am talking about protesters: the fighters who pushed for their ideals, and with their actions inspired thousands.

In the Revolution of Dignity, special attention is given to the so-called Heavenly Hundred — people who died when Special Mobility and Police forces tried to suppress the peaceful protest.

One of them was Serhiy Nigoyan. It can be said that life played a sinister joke on him. After having escaped war in Nagorno-Karabakh (the disputed territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan) at a very young age, he ended up in the midst of a violent conflict in his new home. However, what struck people the most was his personality. Known as a man of the purest soul and the kindest eyes, he would always become shy when talking to the journalists and belittle his own achievements. He was open about his intentions and the reason for standing there, on Maidan, alongside others.

His life ended on January 22nd, 2014, one month before the Euromaidan was over, with many more tragic deaths to follow. Their sacrifice did not go unnoticed: It was followed by the people asserting their right and freedom to choose which path to follow and which government to obey.

The saying goes: “When you are in a garden, which flowers do you pick?” “The most beautiful ones.”

Unfortunately, it did not work out as well as everyone had hoped for. Yes, the pro-Russian President hectically run away from the country, taking with him millions worth of art pieces, cash and luxury goods. But the events that followed—the annexation of Crimea by Russian forces, war in the Eastern Donbass region, devaluation of the currency—shows that a post-revolutionary society stands on shaky ground.

The history of the Revolution is now being narrated like a dreary fairytale — a modern-day record of people’s perseverance and resistance, with its heroes and villains, martyrs and apostates, and where, despite the seeming victory, the ‘happily ever after’ part is yet to come.

After a few weeks of rapidly escalating events, the Revolution was over. It was hard to believe, for it ended as abruptly as it had previously begun. The question was: What to do next?

I, like many others, had a choice. Either to succumb. And to bury myself under the heaps of fear and pity for myself and those brave people, whose lives ended on the central streets of Kyiv; or raise up, stronger than before, and take the experience as a powerful lesson to learn from.

I chose the latter and it has changed me, turning me into the person that I am now. Passionately interested in politics, heatedly debating over the current Ukraine-Russia situation, and deeply skeptical about peaceful protests—it all roots back to that bloodstained winter.

It is worth noting though, that the battle we Ukrainians are fighting is still not over. Euromaidan, or our Revolution of Dignity, marked the beginning of a long struggle for Ukraine’s political and economic independence from Russia. This neighboring nation that positioned itself before as a friendly ally, was spreading its tentacles deep into our system, only to strike us at the most unexpected moment.

To this day, this aggressor does not give up on the idea of dominating our country—just a quick glimpse at Russian political talk-shows would be enough to see that Russia’s leaders are not happy with our resistance. But just like the Heavenly Hundred, who lost their lives in a quest for a better, freer future, we will stand strong. Hand in hand, looking fiercely into their eyes.

And if they dare to approach, we will not stay still.