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Our dear friend Kirsten (former Kirstenexpat) currently lives in Kyiv, Ukraine. With her usual optimistic and cheerful spirit, she has been facing the tragic situation the country is going through. She shares with Expatclic some of the moments that are marking her days. Thanks a lot Kirsten, and please stay SAFE!

 

Tuesday, 20th February 2014
My dear friend Lenna invited me to join a protest march that was moving on the Ukrainian parliament this morning. It was a beautiful, sunny day so I decided to go along. Here is what I saw:

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These guys were heading up the hill from the EuroMaidan camp, leading the march on parliament. The atmosphere was pretty peaceful.

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We were very close to the parliament, but it wasn’t tense at all. Love the guy with the teapot helmet.

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I bumped into the German Lutheran minister here in Kyiv.
He was filming the scene when a sniper hit his hand with a pellet.
You can see the black mark on one of his fingers. He said it really hurt.
That, together with the first stun grenade being thrown, was a clear sign for me to get out of there.

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Going back down the hill, I came across these scenes. Later, I saw photos where these trucks had all been burnt out.

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As I was heading to the metro, I saw smoke coming from the other barricades so I went for a look over by the Dynamo Stadium.

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This was the scene.

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Again, despite the smoke, the atmosphere was not threatening (otherwise I would not have been there). But there were indeed very few spectators.
After about 20 minutes, some of the guards told us we had better leave. So I got out of there. Quickly.

If you want to see what happened after I left, check out this link: http://www.kyivpost.com/

And here is a live link: http://hromadske.tv/episode/128

Right now (8 pm Tuesday evening, Kyiv time), there’s a lot of confusion. The whole metro system has been stopped (I had to walk home) and the roads leading into Kyiv are also blocked. There are reports of 9 people dead, on both sides. Rumours are swirling of a State of Emergency but no one knows.
We’re all safe at home and will just have to wait to see what happens next. But it doesn’t look good and especially dire for all the people down at the EuroMaidan. It will probably be a bloody night for Ukraine.

This is an e-mail I sent out to my family to let them know what has been happening here since Tuesday:

Believe it or not, I have missed the last 3 days of drama due to a nasty sinus infection. I haven’t been this sick in years. I finally managed to get hold of some antibiotics today by bribing our nice family doctor with extra money for medical supplies for the protestors, and then drove him back to the front lines. I certainly hope I start feeling better soon because I am in no state to make myself a cup of tea, much less plan an evacuation.

The kids have been off school since Wednesday and have gone pretty much feral: a bedbound mother, an absent father (Hollie is working 14-hour days, totally caught up in the mayhem), only junk food to eat (Domino’s is still delivering!) and unlimited computer time has turned them into growling zombies. Luckily one neighbor invited the little girls over for a play date today so they will at least get outside: it’s a gorgeous spring-like day here, which just adds to the surreal feeling.

Rebecca is still in Italy on her school trip and has hinted that she would like to stay there a few extra days “for safety”. Ah, teenagers…

So the situation on Tuesday was bad, Wednesday was worse, and then Thursday morning all hell suddenly broke loose down at the protests. I had Al Jazeera news running on the TV all day and in my fever-induced state kept hearing about the increasing death toll. I thought I must be hallucinating. Horrible, just horrible. 
 
There does appear to have been some kind of breakthrough in negotiations today (Friday) and a deal is on the table. The problem is that there is no real, unified ‘opposition’, so getting everyone to agree on all the details will be impossible. We have to hope that rational thinking prevails (ha!). At least the killings seem to have stopped for now.

The situation remains very fluid. Some police forces have joined the protestors, many pro-Russian thugs are roaming the streets at night, no one knows where it will all go from here. For us there is no immediate danger, so I don’t even want to think about evacuating. Honestly, where would we go? My worst-case scenario is me stuck in some random hotel with 5 kids, no Hollie, no school and no definite time frame when everything would get back to normal. Better to stay here unless things get really bad. Our school is planning on opening again on Monday, which is a good sign. Of course, other expat families have packed up and headed out, but a lot of them were planning on leaving for Spring Break anyway. And some of those families are headed by mothers who are bit more prone to panicking than I am 😉

So I lie in bed, drinking my tea, taking my meds and hoping my head stops hurting so much. Through the open window I can hear the priests singing quite beautifully from the stage down at the protest square. But thankfully, today that isn’t being interspersed with the sound of stun grenades and gun fire. So let us all be thankful for small steps towards a peaceful resolution. This country deserves so much better.

 

Kirsten
Kyiv, Ukraine
February 2014