On Sunday, February 2, area Ukrainians gathered to show solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Ukraine, in their struggle for a just, democratic and free society. Members of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Catholic Church in Kerhonkson and other Ukrainian organizations came together after Sunday morning Liturgy on their local “Maidan”. Taken from the name of the central square in Kyiv, Ukraine, where crowds first gathered in November, Maidan is the name of the anti-government protest that continues to this day in Ukraine.
The local gathering began with Fr. Ivan Kaszczak, pastor of Holy Trinity Church, leading a prayer. After the American and Ukrainian national anthems were sung, members of CYM, the Ukrainian Youth Organization, presented a tribute to the protestors killed in Kyiv. Andriy Bihun of Pine Bush, who with his family spent time at the Maidan in Kyiv, spoke of events there. He described how important it is for Ukrainians all over the world to be aware of what is happening, to share with their children the language, culture and history of their ancestors. Nadia Maczaj of Ellenville read a statement from Congressman Chris Gibson (R- 19 district), who co-sponsored House Resolution 447, “supporting the democratic and European aspirations of the people of Ukraine, and their right to choose their own future free of intimidation and fear.”
Since music has been an important source of inspiration for the Ukrainian Maidan all along (protestors have even brought pianos out onto the streets for live music!), our Kerhonkson Maidan concluded with singing Ukrainian songs. For a finale, members of PLAST, the Ukrainian Scouting Organization, handed out blue and yellow balloons, which we marked with well-wishes for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine and released into the skies.
Problems in the Ukrain began when talk of a deal with the EU stopped. The deal would have joined the European Union and the Ukraine with free trade and further political cooperation. This had the potential of opening up more opportunities for workers. Yanukovych instead made a move away from the European Union and towards the Russian directed Eurasian Customs Union (ECU), which includes Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.
Crowds gathered at the Maidan Nezalezhnosty, or Independence Square, in late November. The peaceful, localized protests grew into a national movement after November 30, when government authorities sent riot police to brutally break up the demonstrations overnight. On January 16, the government illegally passed a package of laws through Parliament, essentially criminalizing any protests. A number of demonstrators have been viciously murdered, wounded protestors have been kidnapped from hospitals, opposition leaders have been attacked and hundreds of protestors are missing. Many of Yanukovych’s supporters quit and joined the opposition. Opposition leaders called for a nationwide strike and demanded the resignation of Yanukovych. Many political buildings were been broken into and taken over by protesters. Protesters have used a backhoe to break through the police line. City hall was taken over by protesters who renamed it Revolutionary Headquarters.
Now Victor Yanukovych has been removed from power by a unanimous vote. The parliament is being led by the speaker Oleksandr Turchynov. Yulia Tymoshenko asked to not be considered for the role of prime minister. She has not made it clear whether or not she will run for president. She has had chronic back problems while in jail and since she has been released has gone to see her family. The presidential palace became property of the state as a symbolic gesture to show that lawmakers were enraged by Mr. Yanukovych’s actions as well. The vote to reclaim the palace was 323 to 0. Those who did not vote were Yanakovych’s supporters who were dismissed when Yanukovych fled.
For a well-written, concise report on events in Ukraine, take a look at this blog in the NewYorker: