Over two months have elapsed since the beginning of pro-EU demonstrations in Ukraine, but public outcry remains vehement over the pro-Russian policy of President Viktor Yanukovych and the dictatorial measures he has taken. Unlike the Orange Revolution of 2004, in which similar non-violent protests repaired a fraudulent election, the government has been physically antagonistic toward its citizens. With seven civilians dead already and the protests showing no immediate signs of settling down, the shockwaves generated out of Kiev have spread throughout the world.
Jack Birdsall, a Northwestern freshman, is the son of Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) missionaries and spent most of his first 18 years living in Kiev. As such, he’s witnessed most of the events leading to Ukraine’s current debacle. A story he remembers from 2011 tipped him off to the authoritarian ways of President Yanukovych.
“We were driving to church on a Sunday morning,” Birdsall recalls, “and in the city traffic was halted to a stop. It turns out that we were stopped for Yanukovych’s motorcade, and all the police were standing in the streets in salute position. It was very Soviet, no president before him ever would have done something like that.”
Despite the potential red flags shown by the pro-Russian president, the rapidity of the situation blowing out of control surprised most people.
“Yeah, this was totally out of the blue for me,” said Birdsall, who has been keeping up with the daily events in Kiev via live feed updates on the KyivPost’s website.
With daily crowds in Maidan (the main city square) numbering in the hundreds of thousands, there is little reason to believe that the protesters will rest until Yanukovych is removed from office. In fact, many have set up trash can fires and staked out claims throughout the square like citizens under siege.
“It’s like Armageddon out there,” Birdsall said. "It's really just an illustration to me of how dedicated these people are."
Birdsall finds it hard to believe that the place where he and his friends used to hang out has turned into a hotbed of police brutality, but he supports the aims of the non-violent protesters. He, along with the rest of the world, will continue to stay posted as the people of Ukraine seek a peaceful transfer of power.