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First time, second time and maybe even a third – A Conversation with a Friend

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We’re sitting in a café – identical to many others of the same chain coffee store all over Canada. We start talking about Kyiv since it’s a mutual interest and shared experience (individual but shared at the same time).

Why did you go?

It was four months of watching and after February [‘after February’ is now a common comment], I wanted to pay my respects…I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t. I wanted to catch the atmosphere before it was too late.

The atmosphere is insatiable – it’s like that saying from those potato chips: once you have one you can’t stop? Or something along those lines. You go and you can’t get enough of the place – the atmosphere, the people, the iconography of it all.

I was there 10 years ago, but I had to go because it was more important now than it was back then. I’ll go a third time and a fourth time if I have to…You’re either fully in or not.

Well what about the City Hall? It was all closed off when I was there. I guess they’re doing work in the interior of it – rebuilding and fixing it up.

City Hall was different, it was still open. Different floors for different sections for different groups…There was a paranoia that anything could happen. It wasn’t as safe as people think…I moved into a hostel from City Hall…it was day and night between the hostel and the Maidan.

I could see that – the hostel had doors that locked, the Maidan had (has) tent flaps. I talk about how I felt safe, if anything did happen, I could easily just run to the nearest tent for help.

That’s true. The tent area was saver than Toronto – I felt as if I was at home. What did I do there? Mostly bought food and veggies for the sotnia. Bought a cell phone for one guy since his was destroyed. Bought a tablet for another one so they could stay connected. I gave them some moral support – they were happy to see someone from Canada at the Maidan supporting them.

I thought it was different, this time around. I think it was freer in a way – happier; people were happy and expressed it outright. They were even polite to me!

The change we expected in Ukraine started at the Maidan…Surprising thing I found was that the early 20 year olds, the teens, even kids – what’s coming out of their mouth is more patriotic. Most of my friends can’t switch to being that patriotic (the ones who grew up with the end of the Soviet Union)…But there’s hope now, there’s no more inferiority complex…the young guys are ready to do whatever for Ukraine.

How about some of people at the Maidan?

There was this guy Roman. His cousin died in February and I befriended him at the Maidan. Roman went there because of his cousin – and he wasn’t leaving until it’s all done. He doesn’t even want to leave Kyiv now, he’s gotten so comfortable there.

How was Kyiv for you? I thought it changed too – the city I mean. The Revolution changed it in a way.

I spent a day driving around with a friend looking for a bike. I kept on thinking to myself: there’s going to be a war tomorrow and you’re driving around trying to find the right bike? I guess things are still normal there…it’s funny. They call it ‘the Euromaidan’ here but they don’t care there. They just want to be left alone, they just want a democratic rule of law. They don’t want to be sold out to either the west or Russia. After the corruption is gone, they’ll be fine on their own…a lot of people think its either-or, but that’s not the case. There’s a third option.”

Of being Switzerland? Well, that is a way out. What else do you want to say about the Maidan? Who else was there?

There is one thing I want to say about the Maidan…there were Russian speakers and ethnic Russians in the sotnia who were pro-Ukrainian. There were no persecution, there were never any issues. Never any attacks on anyone…some Russians were even there 10 years ago and they were there again. It was just like-minded individuals.

What else did you see in Ukraine? You were there for like weeks on end!

I went to Mezhyhirya. But by then they didn’t allow you inside [the houses]. It was free than, but now you have to pay 200 hryvni to get in.

Holy sh*t…how was it? Gaudy I’m guessing.

It was like the gates of gluttony…faux-stone, cheesy shit. Make it right if you’re going to steal millions!…There was one of everything there!

He shows me pictures of the gluttonous luxury there: a statue of a white horse in the middle of a field – no idea why it’s there or why one would think it was appropriate to put it there. It’s just there…alone, in a field. An ugly white-horse statue. I ask about L’viv – how different was it there?

L’viv? It was L’viv. I went to take a breather.

Yeah, it is ridiculously awesome there.

The conversation trails off to other things, other interests. I leave off hoping that the elections will make things better. Make things stronger and stable in that country we’re all so attached to.

Poroshenko won the exit polls. Maybe the chocolate king will give his country that sweet touch he has with the confectionary business. Hopefully there won’t need to a third time to go see the Maidan tents and mingle with sotnia members. We’ll just have February to remember and commemorate and no more of our own will have to fight for Ukraine’s freedom anymore. Slava Ukraini!

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