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¹7 (2014)
Tunnelling Towards Hope


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28 February - 6 March 2014

Ukraine History

A Stronghold of Rulers and Rebels

With the recent death toll jumping to nearly 100 and 1,000 injured, Hrushevskoho Street, one of the strongholds of EuroMaidan’s three-month-long protests, made headlines around the globe. It was here, on 19 January the country’s stand against government corruption, abuse of power, and the violation of human rights turned from peaceful protest to all-out revolution. Having witnessed much over the years, Hrushevskoho is a street with a history, and not only care of recent days.

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Ukraine Today
Acelebrity using their status and intelligence to influence public views and opinion is rarely seen in modern society, even less so in Ukraine. Here, the majority of celebs use their time, effort, and money to enhance or further their career rather than put their name to something that can do good for others. However, as EuroMaidan intensifies, some are making themselves heard – and they fall either side of the EuroMaidan divide.
It used to be that when rebellion and revolution occurred, the intellectual, creative, and spiritual elite would be front and centre.

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Ukrainian Culture

When Walls Can Talk

People have been writing on walls since the dawn of civilisation, we call it graffiti, and ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings. Sometimes it is merely the creator wanting to leave his or her mark; sometimes there is an underlying social or political reason. And it is due to the latter that graffiti has exploded across Kyiv in recent months. Anti dictator messages aside, we peel back a few layers of paint to look at graffiti in the city in general.

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Ukraine History

Keeping the Peace Ukrainian Soldiers Talk Iraq and the Balkans

We all know that Ukrainian troops have been in Iraq and the Balkans trying to help keep order, but we rarely hear their stories. Now two who saw action overseas tell us what it was like.


The Iraq Veteran
Ukrainian Army Lieutenant Colonel Roman Stadnyk (not his real name) is an academic lecturer these days, but he still wears his insignia of rank and has the calm, competent demeanor you often find in military men. “I wasn’t afraid of going over there,” he tells us, “although I knew that I ran a risk. I’m a free man as far as marital status is concerned, but I’m bringing up a daughter on my own.” With an ironical smile he says, “I don’t quite understand how I ended up there in Iraq, one of the world’s most dangerous hot spots. I was offered something like $1,225 per month, while my American counterparts got salaries that were [much] larger.” To hear Stadnyk describe it, Ukrainian peacekeepers didn’t get a fair shake as far as security, accommodation, and food were concerned. Ukrainian military men sometimes had nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat upon arrival in Baghdad. “First we slept out on balconies and then we got tents, but we still had no separate bedrooms. We’d take naps where we could and when we could and we had no place store our arms and no decent food. Ukraine wasn’t ready for this - legally, financially, or even psychologically. And the most important thing was to be ready psychologically, because I had some cases when my subordinates addressed me in tears, they were so frightened. There were no training courses. I took their hands to comfort them somehow because it’s difficult to see blood everywhere.” Asked whether people in the Ukrainian government knew about the difficulties Ukrainian soldiers were facing, Stadnyk replies, “When one of the biggest Army chiefs came to the base in Iraq, he was reluctant to hear

 “I remember how happy we were when we could get our hands on some Ukrainian pickled herring and Obolon beer”

 the truth about all the problems we were encountering.” Nonetheless, the Ukrainian force managed to pull through, and Stadnyk believes the mission was a contributive one for the Ukrainian armed forces, as the military gained some experience in conducting warfare with coalition forces. “The experience proves that the Ukrainian Armed Forces can compete with others,” he says. In the short term, however, more serious and long-term collaboration with foreign forces isn’t realistic. “We’re not ready yet,” Stadnyk says. “In the Ukrainian army an order is given very loudly, and maybe it’s even shouted. The Americans aren’t like that. If an officer shouts he’s considered abnormal. In wartime people should be tolerant and sympathetic and American soldiers don’t shout at each other, in distinction to us. But what astonished me is that American soldiers often spend their free time on their own, with their laptops on their knees. It’s difficult for them to get through the horror of war. Our soldiers stick to their company, expressing their feelings about things and spending time together. But the overall picture was rather friendly. The Americans were sympathetic and positive… We lived together through some difficult times, and the main thing was that we had the same values: kindness, dignity and support.” “Both Americans and Ukrainians were there representing their countries’ interest,” he continues, but “only 3% of the Iraqi people are okay with the current course of events, and there won’t be peace there in the short run.”

 No Special Perks
You might think Ukrainian soldiers who come back from Iraq get all sorts of benefits, but you’d be mistaken. “There are no special benefits, actually,” says Stadnyk, “except for free travel in the metro and on buses.” That, and a document testifying to his service, are about all that a Ukrainian soldier gets in return for danger and witnessing lots of carnage. “One of my functions was to inspect those who died,” he says. “The bodies were examined and only then were they transported to Kuwait, and then from Kuwait to Germany. Iraq caused millions of death and

 “The Americans were sympathetic and positive… We lived together through some difficult times, and the main thing was that we had the same values: kindness, dignity and support”

 casualties. I used to come across people, Ukrainian people, who were injured and left in hospitals in Baghdad with no provisions, no food or documents, and they couldn’t even speak the language. “American soldiers shoot Iraqis a lot,” Stadnyk says. “The Iraqis are more tolerant towards Americans and peacekeepers.” He says that sometimes American troops at tense moments “shot without any warning.” “It’s very difficult to reminisce about all that,” he says. “Sometimes I was sorry for my subordinates who lacked equipment, while the Americans had all the necessary gear, including night vision devices. I asked the Ukrainian authorities to send us at least a couple hundred [such devices] so we could protect themselves.”

 Balkan Adventures
We also talked to Andrey Marianchyk, also a lietenant colonel, who served with the peacekeeping forces in Sarajevo in the mid-1990s as an English translator. “Psychologically it was very difficult,” he says, “because at the time the death toll for the Ukrainian contingent was extremely high, and two Ukrainian units were captured. And we didn’t get any psychological support.” First the Ukrainian operations were under the aegis of the UN, then later under the NATO umbrella. The difference, Marianchyk said, was dramatic, with the essence of it being in the use of arms. Under UN control you’re not supposed to fire first, even if you’re in danger. NATO troops, on the other hand, can use their weapons at their discretion. “I was there at the moment of transition from the UN to NATO, so the troops were changing their flags,” Marianchyk says. “There were no official contracts, but there were rumours that our lives were insured for $100,000. One condition of that was that Ukrainian officers wore bulletproof clothes and helmets. Most of the deaths were accidental.” Financial motivations played a big role in putting Ukrainians into the middle of the Balkan wars. ‘I received $800 per month, and that was a substantial sum. In 1995, in that era of complete breakdown, it was a nice contribution to the family budget, and you could even buy a one-room apartment in some suburban areas. But I wonder: why on earth are peacekeepers today earning about the same sum? At the time, my French counterpart earned $20,000 per month and his job description was the same as mine. Egyptians were another matter, they earned just a little bit more then we did. They had some national peculiarities - they observed all their religious rituals.” The benefits? Free travel on the metro and a couple other things. “You also get free medical service, but if you try to access it you’ll be treated carelessly until you pay up something.” Luckily, Marianchyk didn’t lose any colleagues during his tour of duty. ‘Mostly French servicemen died there. We were more friendly and tended to use our arms less. We defended but didn’t attack. Still, I remember one death. It was accidental: one soldier shot another in the dark. But the most astonishing thing was that the Ukrainian authorities refused to provide us with funds for a coffin and transportation. They said something like ‘His death was due to your mistake, so take care of it yourselves.” He continues, “Our French colleagues gave us money for a coffin and the Americans helped with the transportation.” In general, Marianchyk says, “It was an experience I’ll never forget. There were even some funny situations. I remember some Canadian soldiers who arrived with a couple of servicewomen. We organised a dinner for them and they came without the female soldiers. We wondered where they were. The answer surprised us. ‘We don’t have any females,’ they said, ‘only servicemen, and the ones you’re referring to are watching our vehicles now.’” In the Ukrainian armed forces, this sort of studious gender neutrality doesn’t exist. When every day could be your last, the simple things make you happy. “I remember how happy we were when we could get our hands on some Ukrainian pickled herring and Obolon beer.” “There were certainly some guys who couldn’t stand the pressure, and they went back to Ukraine,” Marianchyk says. “But it was interesting for me and I’ve never regretted it. The main thing the Americans taught us is that on no account should we plead guilty when UN or NATO representatives accused us of doing something wrong. I remember a case when an armoured vehicle didn’t turn properly and it destroyed part of a housing block.” He smiles. “There was an investigation that concluded that the building hadn’t been properly constructed.”

 Ksenia Karpenko


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Comments (1)
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Aleksey | 22.08.2009 10:55

Not all but most is a bullshit.


 
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    Ukraine Truth
    Rights We Didn’t Know We Had

    Throughout EuroMaidan much has been made of Ukrainians making a stand for their rights. What exactly those rights are were never clearly defined. Ukraine ratified the Univer­sal Declaration of Human Rights in 1952. The first article of the Declaration states all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, they are endowed with reason and conscience, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. The ousted and overthrown Ukrainian government showed to the world they don’t understand the meaning of these words.


    Kyiv Culture

    Pulling Strings
    Located on Hrushevskoho Street – the epicentre of EuroMaidan violence, home to battles, blazes and barricades – children’s favourite the Academic Puppet Theatre had to shut down in February. Nevertheless, it is getting ready to reopen this March with a renewed repertoire to bring some laughter back to a scene of tragedy. Operating (not manipulating) puppets is a subtle art that can make kids laugh and adults cry. What’s On meets Mykola Petrenko, art director of the Theatre, to learn more about those who pull the strings behind the show.

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