Monday, February 24, 2014

From the EuroMaidan

Nika Huk

Nika Huk, a freelance interpreter and owner of Fashion Agony is based out of Ukraine. A staunch supporter of the protests, Nika hopes for a bright future for Ukraine, one where all its people enjoy political independence from Russia, liberal laws, protection of human rights, a strong economy Speaking candidly about the revolutionary events in Ukraine as they unfold, Nika shares her vision for Ukraine with us, and ties that into her own narrative while living under autocracy and seeing change happen before her eyes.

What's happening in Ukraine right now?
Right now Ukraine is mourning the 77 heroes fallen defending the people against the criminal regime. All of the regime's major participants have either resigned or been forced to resign, most of them have fled the country. A new government is being formed and the EuroMaidan (protesters, nationalist movements, civil defense and organizations) is closely observing this process, expressing distrust towards the opposition and making first steps to rebuild what has been destroyed during the protests.

Euromaidan. Image: Nika Huk
For those who have less to no-idea, could you tell us a little about the background to the events?
Back in November the former President Yanukovych has made a sharp turnaround from his promise to ensure the Ukraine's European future by refusing to sign the EU association agreement. His announcement raised small protests all over the country with the majority of protesters being students and young people. On December 1, 2013 the Kiev's peaceful protesters were severely beaten and humiliated by the police at the president's command. The next day over 200,000 people gathered on Kiev's main square to condemn his actions. On the weekend over 1 million people came.

Euromaidan. Image: Nika Huk

Peaceful and numerous protests throughout the country lasted for one and a half months until the patriotic groups got tired to just stand on the central square seeing how reluctant our opposition was to do something and decided to piquet the Parliament. They were violently stopped by the police. The clash between the police and the protesters lasted for about a week, the police used gas, grenades and guns against men armed only with stones and sticks. Three men were killed, hundreds were kidnapped by the police officers, either arrested or tortured and left to die in the -20° cold. The police was not above beating women, medics and journalists.

Euromaidan. Image: Nika Huk

On 18 February 2014 around 20,000 Euromaidan protesters in Kiev advanced on Ukraine's parliament demanding to restore the Constitution of Ukraine to its 2004 form. Numerous protesters were shot by the police and the central square was surrounded. At the same time the country, including Kiev, were paralyzed by the government, all roads to Kiev were blocked to prevent the arrival of backup to the protesters. Dozens of people were ruthlessly shot by snipers every day until the Parliament finally gathered on February 21 to resolve the situation.

Now that the dictator isn't in the picture, what direction is the country likely to take?
Ukraine will be moving towards the European integration. Millions of people are controlling the creation of new authorities that will stick to the European values.

Can you take us through your thoughts on civilian protest against government brutality and dictatorial ways?
I very much support such protest. I believe that government and the police are the servants of people, not the other way around. I am deeply sorry though this was not the case in Ukraine during the presidency of Yanukovych.

What has your personal journey been like in these years under autocratic rule, and now this transition?
Up until December 1, 2013, I was not interested in the politics at all. I've been establishing my business, travelling and blogging. I did face corruption and my rights have been violated more than once throughout the years but to me they were the remnants of the Soviet Union and I didn't care much about changing anything. This revolution changed how people think, how I think. No longer will we tolerate things like that and I think from now on everyone, including me, will try to get involved as much as possible in controlling what's going on in the country.

What stands out in these protests, as a message to the world when it comes to making lasting political change happen?
Several very important messages come to mind and they all concern Ukraine:
1. Ukraine is not Russia, nor does it want to be controlled by Russia
2. Ukrainian patriotism is unique and phenomenal, people were ready to sacrifice their lives so that Ukraine wouldn't turn into Russia
3. Loving your country and protecting your legacy is not terrorism
4. Ukraine has finally got rid of the Soviet era holdover and is ready to build a true democracy

What do you see as the ideal future for Ukraine?
Political independence from Russia, liberal laws, protection of human rights, a strong economy! I'm proud of my country and its people and I think we are on the right track, now we only need time to implement all this, everything else we already have.

Nika Huk runs Fashion Agony and is based out of Ukraine. You can follow her on Twitter here.