In 1963, a civil rights activist Martin Luther King delivered his famous speech for thousands of Afro-Americans asking them to stand up from their knees and become free at last. Now, in 2013, millions of Ukrainian citizens united to express their solidarity with the principles proclaimed in Luther’s speech.
Ukrainian struggle for freedom began in November 2013, when the peaceful demonstrations for Euro-integration unexpectedly resulted in violent wrestles between Maidan activists and military forces. The consequences were more than dramatic: almost 100 people perished, more than 300 went missing whereas tens of others are still in hospitals fighting for their lives. That was a turning point in the history of independent Ukraine, as millions of Ukrainian patriots went out into the streets to show their disobedience with the President’s decisions.
The centre of Kyiv rapidly became a huge battlefield for those who tried their best to destroy a rotten and no longer effective system of ruling the country. Thousands of Ukrainian citizens donated money, warm clothes, food and medications to support Maidan activists. While mass media were actively making assumptions on who financed EuroMaidan activities, volunteers themselves opened medical points, psychological and press-centres to help each other in this fierce struggle. Ukrainian students spent nights in tents, where food and hot drinks for activists were provided; young girls shifted each other in the distribution of sandwiches, kefir and fruit for men standing on barricades, while those studying in medical universities had an opportunity to apply their knowledge in practice fixing fractures and sewing up wounds. Car owners were of additional help, as they transported tires, helmets and shields for men on the front line, gave a lift to volunteers when subway was blocked, and visited other cities that needed support in asserting their right to peaceful demonstrations.
Moreover, groups of activists organized themselves to picket administrative buildings with precise claims: release those who were illegally imprisoned during mass demonstrations and cancel shameful laws that forbade people to realize their constitutional rights. The climax of the Ukrainian revolution happened when the majority of Ukrainian regions supported country’s capital by organizing peaceful demonstrations for President’s impeachment and pre-term elections. The power of people’s resistance to the government was so huge that it forced Viktor Yanukovich to leave the country.
Joint efforts of millions of Ukrainians in and outside the country, over one hundred deaths and thousands of broken lives was the true value of victory. However, it is still too early to celebrate it. We should continue fighting to build a new country in the memory of those who left us in the fierce struggle for freedom and democracy. We should not fall in despair now in the memory of our glorious ancestor Taras Shevchenko, who dreamed to see Ukraine free from the manacles of injustice and humiliation. We owe our lives to those who sacrificed themselves to give us all a better life without pain, dishonor and intimidation. In the end, I would like to subscribe to the words of Martin Luther King, who once said: “I have a dream that one day we will all join hands and sing “Free at last, Free at last, Great God Almighty, We are free at last!”
Martin Luther King speech “I Have a Dream”, 1963.
This essay is part of a series of student writing on the Euromaidan, part of the the Student Views of Euromaidan project.
For more information on this series and a full index of contributions, please see the introductory post.