For the last three months and from a distance I have followed the unfolding of history being made in Ukraine. At first I was sceptical about the actions of the many people who gathered in Independence Square in Kiev. Did they really expect that they could alter the power base of their current government and shift attention to the desires and the wellbeing of the people of their country? Could they get the attention of the powers to be and the attention of the world in achieving their goals of having a less oppressive country and benefit from becoming a more democratic society?
My cynicism is well rooted in my perspective on how disconnected we as people within the western world are from the political/corporate decision making systems that we refer to as democracy. As citizens, in a country that prides itself on being the epitome of democracy, many of us feel we are disempowered and have little or no impact on the actions of our governments. Therefore, how would we expect that the citizens of a country with a shaky grasp on democracy can affect any change?
My attention on the situation in Ukraine intensified alongside the increasing intensity of the circumstances in Ukraine. I was worried about the potential for violence that we eventually witnessed. My concern for family members in Ukraine remained high throughout and my concern extended to all the people who were involved in the demonstrations and eventual battles in Kiev, to the many people I do not know but feel empathy for I felt helpless in being able to contribute to their struggle; frustrated with the weak response from outside leaders; discouraged by the lack of respect for humanity, for the people of Ukraine and irritated by the protection of the government leaders rather than the citizens. Surely in today’s global world we could not stand by and let the discord and the violence continue to escalate?
But standby we did. Although some countries made attempts to contribute to a peaceful resolution, for the most part these efforts were tentative and ignored some of the fundamental issues that have led to the discord in the first place. Attention to these issues would also have us question our own situations and systems. The response of those outside of Ukraine and our own forms of corruption in the western political complex however are not the purpose of this piece. Instead I want to focus on the tenacity and the courage of the Ukrainians who have created history.
For three months Ukrainians have spoken out, have given their time and energy and have risked their lives for change in their country. Against all odds they banded together to voice their concerns and to demand change. They had had enough of the corruption, the oppression and the dominance of a greedy self-serving government. The initial attempts to portray these individual protestors as militants and terrorists hell-bent to destroy the country did not hold for long and soon the entire world could see that the protestors included a range of individuals including activists and ordinary citizens; young and old. These are people who want a better life, not just for those people in power, but for all its citizens. These are people who have reached their limits of tolerance and thus are willing to take a stand no matter what. We in the western world are too comfortable to reach this level of citizen contribution let alone to understand it.
Watching live coverage and video of what became a battlefield made the intensity of the commitment of these people of Ukraine clear to me. It also brought the destructive and inhuman response and actions of the government into full view. That former President Viktor Yanukovych is now wanted on an arrest warrant for mass murder of many of the protestors is encouraging.
I am saddened that close to 100 individuals lost their lives in the efforts to effect change and at the same time I am inspired by the anti-government protestors who did not back down and who continued their struggle toward their objectives. I am hopeful that they will continue their vigilance until these objectives are secured. I see the need not for a new face in charge but rather a new way of governing that will be attentive to the needs of the people, the needs of the country. This will not be simple or easy to achieve but I am confident that the same tenacity and persistence that has been demonstrated thus far will help to move Ukraine in a more sane direction.
I am proud of the efforts of so many Ukrainians in trying to bring attention to the corruption and the need for change. I am proud of what all these individuals did in order to effect change. I am proud of their determination. I am heartened by their willingness to put the good of their country and the good of their fellow citizens ahead of their own individual lives. I am proud of Ukrainians.
History has been made but there is more to come. I hope for peace and cross my fingers that the direction for Ukraine and all its citizens will be improved. It is time.
Irene McDermott © 2014