When I first visited Kiev in July 2013 I had the time of my life. I made many new friends and when they took me for a picnic in one of Kiev’s huge parks, it was one of the most fun days of the year. Although some of them had very little knowledge of English, I had fun with all of them. They treated me like the prince had arrived and made me feel like I had been their friend for ages. I wish it never ended. A few months later I got to know some more nice people from Kiev and I started to look into flights to visit them again.
Sadly the situation in Kiev changed soon. Although there were some minor demonstrations on the main street during my first visit, I couldn’t imagine what would happen less than half a year later. Massive demonstrations were happening on Maidan, the square where I lived for three days. I watched the live streams of demonstrations at home and saw snipers killing people, lying there in the middle of the street. People tried to defend themselves with improvised shields and stacks of tires. I was in touch with my friends regularly and knew most of them were demonstrating and thus risking their lives on Maidan whenever they could. I was angry, the situation made me feel sad and watching the events live or later on Youtube hurt me. But I knew I wanted to return as soon as it was safe again and decided it had to be next summer, right after my trip to the Caucasus.
When I arrived in Kiev, I knew some scars would be visible. But I had no clue I would be so touched by what I saw. When I walked towards Maidan, I saw the main street was blocked by tires, fences and just trash. Tents were put up in the middle of the street and people were still living there, half a year after the horrible events. The shields used were visible, and so were the pictures of the fallen “soldiers”. On other streets near Maidan the scars were also impossible to miss. Buildings were (heavily) damaged and on the spot where someone lost its life, flowers, pictures, crosses and their pictures were lying on the street.
It felt like all my energy flowed away and I just had to sit down regularly. Some tears slid down my cheek. Knowing that I was at the place where I saw terrible things happen live from home, the place where I had so much fun only one year ago, really hurt me. And now I was walking through their territory, between the people that had been fighting for their freedom. Although I knew many of the people that remained were actually just homeless with addictions, I could feel their pain. Maidan also became commercial. Ukraine themed items were for sale on the streets. And so were rolls of toilet paper with the picture of Russia’s leaders on it. They said it was for sale so they could finance the demonstrations. They few tourists that yet returned to Kiev were happy to buy some of their items. No doubt some good money was made.
Only one week after I got home, the government cleaned Maidan and the streets around. I watched cranes and garbage truckes removing the blockades. Although the Ukrainians were still not fully satisfied with the results of the revolution, the majority understands that Kiev has to go on with its normal live. As much as possible, because with the deflation of the currency and the conflicts still going on in East Ukraine and Crimea everyone is still worried about their future.
I have visited several other places that touched me a lot before, but I think this visit to Kiev was the most emotional one. A conflict never came so close to me and I never felt so involved, although I wasn’t.