Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Significance of Nov. 26 in Ukraine

November 26, 2004 was Day 5 of the OR, and on this day the Orange Revolution took a rather precarious turn, with the announcement from Yushchenko of the start of negotiations with authorities. It was a Friday last year, and he came to Independence Square to explain the purpose of the negotiations—to win from authorities promises for a rerun of the runoff, with no administrative resources involved, no meddling, no falsifying, and with total openness. I remember thinking to myself, “What the hell? Are people demonstrating to demand from authorities another day at the polls, or are they demanding that authorities admit that Yushchenko already won?" This was not the first, nor the last, time that I have felt frustrated with Yushchenko’s gentlemanliness toward the oligarchs. Read here (scroll down to "Is Yushchenko Too Chummy With Old Power?") and here what I have written regarding Yushchenko's gentemanliness. But most importantly, lots of other people were, at the time, likewise bewildered by this twist of events. Both wings of PORA! condemned it. Graffiti appeared in Kyiv and elsewhere that read "No Compromise!"

"No Compromise!"

The graffiti in this photo is hard to read; it was written on a wall blocking a construction site across the street from the Ukrainian Home in Kyiv.

In the end, people were willing to give Yushchenko the benefit of a doubt--at least he did not call off mass demonstrations, but just asked that no one do anything to escalate the situation (recall that just the day before, Moroz and Tymoshenko had suggested that the opposition may start erecting barricades around the city and might attempt to storm government buildings, etc., if authorities did not show any sign of cooperating with them). ARE PEOPLE AS WILLING THIS TIME to give him the benefit of a doubt? Or is the memorandum with Yanukovych (another compromise with Yanukovych) just far too compromising a compromise? To my mind, it seems like it is for most of his supporters in Ukraine, and so he has backed himself into needing Tymoshenko again. . .

November 26, 2005: Every last Saturday in November in Ukraine is the official day of remembrance of the holodomyr (the Terror-Famine that killed 7 million Ukrainians in 1933, and 1-2 million more in Central Asia). My maternal grandmother lived through the holodomyr, and I have over the years been recording her remembrances on tape, writing them down, and someday will seek to publish her words somewhere. See next post for more.

Then on a personal note, my paternal grandfather died on this day in 2002, 1 ½ years before I would come to Ukraine for the first time. It was amazing to be in Ukraine last year, on the two year anniversary of his death on a day in which I was able to actively participate in what can be thought of as the Great Awakening of the Ukrainian people--the realization of which he had dedicated his entire life. He was an active supporter of OUN/UPA as a young man in Ukraine; he then dedicated his life in the US to raising money to actively fund and support various institutions and organizations struggling for Ukrainian independence and freedom; and in his final years, he funded construction of three Greek-Catholic churches (one, in his home village of Sil'tse, for which he was the sole funder; another in Pidhajtsi for which he was the principle funder; and another church in L'viv to which he donated, but was not the principle funder). I wonder what he would have felt, had he been alive to see me go to Ukraine and experience the OR, and I wonder what he would think about the situation now, one year later.

Mykhailo Iwaskewycz (on left) Recieving Thanks in the mid-1980s

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