Ukrainians rejoice at revolution yet mourn Maidan’s fallen heroes | East Villager & Lower East Sider

Ukrainians rejoice at revolution yet mourn Maidan’s fallen heroes

Some of the 40 to 50 photos of the fallen Euromaidan heroes at a memorial outside 136 Second Ave. on Sunday.  Photos by Tequila Minsky
Some of the 40 to 50 photos of the fallen Euromaidan heroes at a memorial outside 136 Second Ave. on Sunday. Photos by Tequila Minsky

BY TEQUILA MINSKY  |  Last Saturday, hundreds of Ukrainians and other New Yorkers walked across the Brooklyn Bridge in support of democracy demonstrators in Ukraine. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Ukrainians gathered outside the White House, commemorating heroes of the “Heaven’s Hundred” — those who had fallen just days before.

Buttons for Razom, which means “Together.”
Buttons for Razom, which means “Together.”

They sang songs dedicated to Kiev’s Independence Square, or Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the epicenter of the “Euromaidan” uprising. More than 80 demonstrators were killed there during Feb. 18-20, ruthlessly picked off by the Berkut, special-forces snipers, who aimed for the head, neck or heart.

A girl in traditional Ukrainian dress manned a book table at the Razom fundraiser.

In a fast-moving, daily-changing political landscape, on Feb. 22, the Ukrainian Parliament impeached the country’s president, Viktor Yanukovych.

Antigovernment demonstrations had been ongoing since November. Protesters ramped up actions last week, as government forces fired on their own people, to the outrage of the  international community. The escalated skirmish was brief, costly, but ultimately victorious for the opposition.

On Monday, an arrest warrant for the president was issued for the “mass murder” of protesters. However, as of press time, Yanukovych’s whereabouts were unknown. He was last seen fleeing toward the eastern, pro-Russia part of the country.

On Sunday, yellow-and-blue balloons — the colors of the Ukrainian flag — decked the outside of Plast Domivka, next door to Veselka restaurant on Second Ave., where a fundraiser was being held for the pressing needs of the people in the Maidan in Kiev.

The event was held by Razom (which translates to “Together”), an organization that formed in November with a mission to support democratic institutions in Ukraine. Ukrainian music and food were enjoyed alongside sales of crafts and traditional floral headdresses.

Among those attending the event was Marta Zahaykevich, 60, from E. Seventh St. She was born after World War II in Ukraine in a displaced-persons camp.

“We entered the U.S. by lottery in 1952 — part of the last big wave of Ukrainians — and settled in Newark,” she said. She moved to New York while attending Columbia University and currently works as an emergency-room psychologist.

Zahaykevich shared many thoughts on the unfolding events.

“Today is a very important day,” she said. “Parliament passed important legislation yesterday. Yanukovych said those votes are illegal. But the laws are veto-proof, having been voted on by over 75 percent of Parliament, and do not require the president’s signature.

“We have a new [interim] president and [acting] interior minister with May 25 elections projected,” she added.

A woman served potato pierogis at the fundraiser.

So how did Yanukovych ever get elected?

“The elections were fraudulent,” Zahaykevich said. “Everyday life is based on corruption. Every step you take, you have to pay someone.”

With police no longer guarding Yanukovych’s lavish palace, the people are now getting a chance to see how he lived.

“Do you know that the toilet seats are in the shape of gold thrones, with armrests?” Zahaykevich asked.

She said Ukraine faces serious problems with unemployment, hunger and healthcare. Yet, the former president was unconcerned.

“Yanukovych didn’t do anything,” she said.

“We want to be part of Europe,” she declared. “We don’t want to be part of Russia anymore.”

Regarding the past three months of protest, Zahaykevich pointedly noted that it was the Berfut, the special forces, that fired on their own people.

In 2010 — under Yanukovych — a new constitution was implemented.

“Parliament has voted to revert back to the 2004 constitution,” she said. “With this Parliament’s newly enacted laws, he’ll have to face his own Parliament.

“People are thrilled, pragmatic, realistic, working step by step in a parliamentarian fashion. We want to take care of him in a legal way,” she said.

Razom was raising money for medical supplies, bulletproof vests, cots, oxygen and whatever else was requested, she added.

Just a few doorways down the street, in front of the Ukrainian American Youth Organization, at 136 Second Ave., passersby paid homage at a sidewalk memorial to those who died during the Ukraine uprising.

“We want to be part of Europe,” East Villager Marta Zahaykevich said of Ukraine.  Photos by Tequila Minsky
“We want to be part of Europe,” East Villager Marta Zahaykevich said of Ukraine. Photos by Tequila Minsky