Today’s one-year commemoration on Maidan: I thought I would walk with the crowds on Institutska street, and I would listen to what people were saying, and maybe I would overhear a sentence or two that would capture for me some kind of mood or meaning of 20 February 2015, central Kyiv, one year on from the bloodiest day of the Maidan protests.
But there was so little to overhear. There were a few ‘Do you remember…?’, a few ‘And this is where we…’; there was the national anthem; of course there was “Slava Ukrainy! Heroyam Slava!” Mostly, all there was to hear was silence.
And I guess that’s the mood and the meaning.
The big screens showed the names of the protestors who were killed on Maidan, the ‘heavenly hundred’. It’s right that the names are there, that Ukraine remembers each one of them, who they were, how they died, what they left behind.
But so much has happened in the year since then and I found myself wanting to see the names of all the others since: the soldiers, the volunteers, the journalists, the children and fathers and mothers and yes the militants and the mercenaries and even the Russian soldiers in east Ukraine too – the dead on both sides and on no sides since February 2014, because they are all people, and I don’t want to hear numbers, I want to see names, I want every one of the dead to be an individual and to be responsible and to count.
If they count, if every one of them on both sides and no sides counts, maybe those people who used Maidan to start and sustain a war (they also have names, they too are individuals with responsibilities) will be made to realise that this is too high a price.
I know that’s naïve. I know because as I walked up Institutska with the silent, dignified crowd I thought, can I imagine a commemoration like this in Moscow? And the answer is no. In today’s Russia, this would have been turned into a glorification of war and suffering. This would have been a heavily stage-managed vehicle for mass propaganda.
At the top of Institutska, I met friends and aquaintances from Crimea. The silence broke, as one told us about a call from her mother in Simferopol describing the pay-related test she had to take at work today. Not on how well the staff were performing at work, but on their knowledge of the Russian national anthem.
(“Slava Ukrainy!” called a voice from the quiet crowd walking past us. “Heroyam Slava” everyone who wasn’t crying replied.)
On this day last year, the ‘Return of Crimea’ began, according to medals minted by the Russian Ministry of Defence in April 2014. There’s a list of names somewhere, of every individual awarded one of these medals for the ‘Return of Crimea, 20 February-18 March 2014’.
Today on Institutska, surrounded by candles and flowers for the dead of 20 February are the Crimeans, Ukrainians who fought for Maidan too and lost their home.