Maidan after Maidan
Everyone is asking why I am not writing about Maidan. It’s hard to write about it. It is Maidan after Maidan. There is no bridge linking the “February Maidan" and its current “life after life”.
At the headquarters they are shaking their heads.
- Self-Defence has been discredited. Klitschko must step in.
- The Headquarters? Traitors, sellouts, it’s debasement of Maidan! – colleagues from another, friendly palatka are outraged.
Maidan is stuck in its lethargy and feeds itself with legends. You hear that Klitschko wants to send troops out to deal with the last freedom fighters. The new government snatches people who want lustration. The pink circles, marking the places where the walls of the Profspilky building are losing plaster are said to be the spots where charred human remains once were. They found human remains in the middle of the wall? - I am dubious. - This is something we don’t talk about! - they cut me off.
For them the number of casualties of the fire has reached several hundred and is still growing. I know that no more than 15 people could actually have died there in Profspilky. I was there. I saw the hospital evacuation. Now they are saying that three hundred neurology patients burned alive in there. They don’t like the renovation work either. Best to leave Profspilky as a monument; a burnt out carcass; smack in the middle of the capital.
When asked how long they had been standing there, everyone states: “from the beginning”. Maidan Nezalezhnosti has been transformed into an eerie aquarium, whose inhabitants just won’t leave, lest they suffocate. - I belonged to the Cossack Angels’ Sotnya – a man with the air of a vagrant about him raves on.
Indeed, Maidan is now populated with only old men and children. Several bored boys with inert faces. They can’t say why they’re not heading east. My friend is giving them compote. This is a bad, tough life. We did fight, didn’t we? So we should be getting posts in the Parliament. Suddenly, there is commotion. Serhiy Nigoyan’s father has arrived. He is looking where his son used to sleep. The last time he came here was to collect his body.
The boys straighten up. For a moment there they are, proud and invincible again. They give interviews to Canadian journalists. They sing the anthem. And amidst the heat, once again, tales of that winter are in full bloom.
- The most beautiful moments in my life – someone says, his voice trembling.
- I would like to have died for my country. I would’ve been better for me. – another adds, with a hint of envy.
Serhiy won. He remained free. The members of the Heaven’s Hundred become a layer among Ukraine’s national heroes. They have become patrons of their former tents, like saints. Those who stayed behind on Maidan are not needed anymore. But they won’t or can’t go home. Kolya’s wife came to see him. - What did you need this Maidan for? Come back to us, in Tarnopol all is done and dusted, it’s over…
They are looking for new enemies. There can be no new Ukraine with old Poroshenko. Any conversation about politics is like a dark corridor leading nowhere.
Serhiy’s father is gone. A stifling and sticky sensation settles over Maidan once again. The air is stagnant, dust has gathered on Serhiy’s photo, nailed to a post. Maidan’s Christ looks on, his eyes sad and still, while they play draughts and borrow money for vodka. Wilted, grubby flags hang over the tents. Stray dogs wander about aimlessly.
I went to the National Guard’s training site to visit a friend. I came back devastated.
- I saw these separatists in Donetsk, they are specnaz guys… And your boys from the National Guard have no vests, no helmets, you need to do something, organise a collection…
- So what, why did they go there in the first place? We have no weapons either. The real struggle is here. You’ll see, you’ll read about it in newspapers one day.
I hear that Klitschko wants to use Internal Forces to pacify the occupants of the tents. Recently he kindly asked them to leave. Maidan responded. Tires stood ablaze in Khreshchatyk.
I talked to Viktor. He is active, he goes to the east; nothing to do in Kiev. He came to Maidan just to say hi to me. – A new wall has sprung up between us. Do you remember when Okean Elzy sang “Who will we be when it’s all over and you say ‘Bottom’s up’?” These guys here took it too literally. Get someone to walk you to the underground station, don’t wander alone at night. It is not safe anymore. - And we first met in February. He knows that I used to walk the barricades alone till 4 in the morning.
We move between tents. Reluctant stares follow us. Someone spits on the ground - a “dog” from the headquarters.
I bump into a friend. He frantically wraps me in his mucky arms.
- My dear, my Polish girl who came to us… 50 hryvnia, it’s urgent, I’ll give it back for sure, I can’t tell you what it’s for, it’s a secret, but I’ll pay you back…
A dark scar runs across his forehead. I ask where he got it.
- I defended a girl. You know how I am, you know me. Please, give me the 50 hryvnia.
Someone dismisses it with a wave of their hand – He is lying. He was drunk and tripped over a stove.
- I am not giving you money to buy vodka.
- Monika, I need to drink, I need to drink so that I can forget how I carried those boys. One of their heads lolled back and half his skull fell off. And it all landed on my shoes. I can’t, I am never leaving here.
I remember. I met him after what happened in Institutskaya Street. His arms were covered in blood up to his elbows. Now only his eyes are blood red.
* * *
After my return I am checking my messages; more National Guard soldiers killed in the East. At Maidan it is “bottom’s up”, the guys dream of blowing on their cold hands and there is endless talk of spring.