Sometimes I am ashamed of it.
I am when I get asked “what is Maidan to you? Only hobos and drug addicts and other human dregs are standing there. You are nothing like it.”
I get fired up when I’m told that people get paid for being there. Because people don’t have to get paid for declaring that they won’t stand the things that are being done to them. They protect their right to voice their opinion and not be afraid.
Moreover, I know some of those people.
There’s a software developer from our team, a talented musician with a brilliant, clear mind. He went there with his wife and baby daughter, took an unpaid leave from work.
There’s our team lead. He couldn’t afford to stay long but he still went for a few days. His wife was with him, and his toddler son.
There’s our team lead’s brother who is a photographer. He was shot in the leg but was going to get back into the streets once the wound healed.
I didn’t go myself. But I collected some warm things because people are freezing there and passed them on. I also sent some money to pay for food supplies – there’s an online food store that will deliver to Maidan if you want to help out this way. And I went out to stand with the small group of protesters in our town a couple of times, though not for long.
I know it’s not enough but I am scared.
I am also ashamed when people tell me “Why do you care? You are paid by US clients. You live well.”
Because this shows how accustomed we are to only care about ourselves. “My house is on the outskirts” – an old Ukrainian saying.
It means “this does not affect me”. It means that I should only care if it touches me directly.
But I want to remind that this has already happened once.
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
Martin Niemöller, 1946
There are Ukrainians standing there. And what they are saying is, they won’t put up with what is happening. That the government cannot kidnap and beat up people. That it’s not allowed to shoot people who want to voice their opinion. That you can’t burn the houses and cars of those supporting the protests. That you can’t shoot the reporters trying to show the world a whole picture, and you can’t shoot the doctors who went into the streets to care for the wounded. That you just can’t.
Being a software developer allows me to have something like a privileged position in this country because I can outsource. This means I get paid by the foreign clients and can allow to live more or less like a civilized person. I don’t have to think whether I can allow myself a meatloaf for my weekend dinner. I still can’t allow to buy an apartment but I can get there gradually, in some years.
But I still have to get out and go into the streets every day. And I will drive in the lousy broken roads because someone stole the money meant for fixing them. And I will walk on the broken pavement because someone stole the money meant to fix it. And I will buy the car priced three times higher than in US because the bureaucracy wheels need to be oiled and we have excises and customs and there’s a lot of overhead because someone needs to pay off the ‘hidden taxes’. And if I will have to go to a hospital they will have holes in their bed sheets (if they have sheets at all), because someone stole the money that would otherwise be used to buy the sheets. And they will tell me that we have free medical services, but I will buy every drug and every syringe and every IV drip with my own money because it is only called free. And I will pay for every procedure, but this money will never see the cash box, because it will be ‘hidden payment’ and basically, it too will be stolen. Because the whole system is corrupt and broken. And it affects me, too.
But more importantly, I will only have it all until I speak up and say that this is wrong and this is no way to live. And once I do, I can be kidnapped and beat up and killed. And the police won’t ever investigate that because they too will be paid off.
And I believe that the people standing there do this because they are fed up with this way to live.
It’s as simple as that.
And when I think that they too are Ukrainians, I am no longer ashamed.