Article by: Oleksandra Haivoronska, Dmytro Larin
No one knows when the Revolution really ended…
For some, it ended with the death of Serhiy Nihoyan, for others, with their own death. Some put an end to it, collected their things and set off for Rostov, others got warm armchairs and bureaucratic jobs. There are those who took up weapons and headed East, and there are others who continued the Revolution, providing clothes for the army and refugees.
Sotnyk (Captain) Kolia was one of those who was forced to leave the Maidan.
He remembers that day in great detail and describes it emotionally, swallowing his words in haste. He was sorry that communal services tore up the tents and destroyed the beds, but he feels most frustrated when speaking about the system that still has not changed despite six months of Maidan protests.
Ever since the Revolution, Kolia has had another nickname – “Ratatouille”. He was given this name by a group of women who once saw him pulling several huge heads of cheese into the kitchen.
When the Maidan was dispersed, he and his Sotnya (hundred) moved to the Fourth Tower of the Kyiv Fortress, and Kolia became the commander.
Now Kolia has to deal with goods and cargo that is a little heavier than cheese. He and a few dozen people from Self-Defense Maidan units collect, organize and escort caravans of supplies to soldiers deployed in the ATO zone.
The activists live in now familiar field conditions. Residents of the neighbouring building in the Pechersk District look at them very suspiciously. It is usually quiet on the territory surrounded by a broken-down swaying fence. If you look between the boards, you can see tents against the background of an abandoned historic building.
You need to pass through big iron gates to get into the territory.
This time, a KamAZ, sporting a PTN PNKh plate, rolls into the area with a distinctive roar. A tall thin smiling man dressed in camouflage jumps from the cab.
All the guys outside cannot hide their joy, and rush towards him. Someone grasps his hand firmly, claps him on the shoulder; someone cannot hold back tears of joy, and cries out loudly: “You’re alive!”, and jumps into the man’s arms. Then, the “locals” focus their attention on the other soldiers.
The First and Second Battalions of the General Kulchytsky National Guard have come home on rotation.
“It’s an important day! Look at this “riffraff” that’s just come back from Debaltseve.” jokes and laughs Volodia, nicknamed “Bandiora”, one of the Self-Defense boys.
During rotation, some soldiers do not go home right away, but come to the Fourth Tower to visit their revolutionary friends, spend the night and then go see their families.
The Maidantsi have arranged a warm room with about a dozen beds for the soldiers. Before the onset of cold winter weather, the activists continue to sleep in tents and prepare the winter accommodations. According to the commander, both the government and historians allowed them to make repairs in the architectural monument. Their main demand was to comply with their terms and conditions, and avoid damaging the walls and floor.
No place for women…
Sotnyk Kolia calls the Fourth Tower a “strictly male territory”. Woman may enter only in the afternoon. They don’t usually go into the kitchen; some of them may bring food or supplies. The main objective of female volunteers who come to the Kyiv Fortress is to weave as many camouflage nets and “kikimora” camouflage suits as possible.
Half- an-hour’s work on the nets makes the women’s hands and fingers stiff and painful. Moreover, it is cold, so their fingers start to freeze even faster. Each woman spends at least two to three hours of her time weaving. They work outdoors, and warm themselves up with hot tea. On average, they can make nine large nets per week – it all depends on the number of hands and their enthusiasm.
The women volunteers have fun talking about everything: life, war, Europe, Lenin, politics, events in Hong Kong… They laugh when they recall the person who came up with another version of the Ukrainian anthem in support of the Hong Kong protesters:
Hong Kong has not yet died, the glory and the freedom. .
Still upon us, slant-eyed brothers, fate shall smile!
The women sing a lot. Sometimes someone accompanies them on the guitar. When they don’t sing, they mutter prayers, asking their nets to act as protective amulets for the soldiers.
In fact, the volunteers and soldiers speak very reluctantly about the government and politics. However, sitting around the dinner table, it becomes hard for them to keep quiet:
“You know what kind of truce they observe, those separatists? They captured three of our boys, shot off their balls. Then they said: “That’s it, go! We don’t need you. There’s a ceasefire after all…” says Sasha Robin, Head of Security for the caravans that are sent from the Fourth Tower.
He just returned from the ATO zone, and came into the fortress to tell us about his trip:
“This time we were at a place where no one has visited the soldiers for a whole month. They actually eat dogs. It’s seven kilometers from the Russian border. It’s called Stanytsia Luhanska. When we got to the guys, they started kissing me… I’ve never been kissed so much by women or girls as I was by those bearded men!”
The residents of the Fourth Tower keep in touch with all the volunteer battalions. Every week, they send off caravans filled with supplies delivered to their center by volunteer groups and individuals. Some of them remain “on home base”, while others escort the humanitarian supplies to the front. Andriy, a medic nicknamed “Alpha”, doesn’t miss a single trip. There are always soldiers that need medical help as there are not always enough doctors on the front lines.
Self-Defense guys find it difficult to respond to questions about why they don’t take up arms and don’t go to war as did many of their Maidan comrades.
Some complain that they failed to do so, others reply shortly: “We’ll all be there soon!” For now, they believe that their mission is to provide indispensable supplies to the soldiers deployed in the most dangerous ATO zones.
The Fourth Tower is not the only place where Self-Defense members moved after the Maidan Revolution.
A few companies (sotni=hundreds) live on Trukhanovy Island. Among them is the Fourth Maidan Kozak Unit.
The Kozaks are happy to have received permission from Kyiv authorities to organize “camp weekends”, whereby children will be taught martial arts, survival in the forest and patriotism. The Kozaks can often be seen participating in massive actions, but they assure us that they support only those that do not contradict their ideas.
There were all sorts of people on the Maidan, and Self-Defense has become a brand that can theoretically be used by anyone who was involved.
Commander Kolia proceeds to tell us the story of how former Maidantsi helped someone “to crush” a business company or organize raider attacks.
“I know that many people from the Ukrayinsky Dim now work in a security company, and they use the Self-Defense name; they make money and live in the Kyiv Hotel.” says commander Kolia. Many guys from Self-Defense units are also based in the Ukraina Hotel.
After the Maidan was dispersed, everyone had to make the most reasonable and appropriate choice for himself… like the politicians who supported the Revolution. “The Guardians” of Maidan say that one of the few men who did not betray the idea of the Maidan Revolution was Andriy Parubiy, their former commander and ex-Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council. However, they don’t idealize him, and admit that anyone can make a mistake.
There are many nationalist symbols on the territory of the Fourth Tower – flags, inscriptions on the gates, banners. However, the activists are quite skeptical about the wave of patriotism that has swept across Ukraine.
“It was a real blow to me when images of Nihoyan began appearing on walls.” says Volodia Bandiora. “I lived through these blue and yellow colours in the 1990s. Everything was being painted everywhere, too. Too much is not healthy. In my mind, the man is still alive. We can still hear his voice…”
“Nihoyan called home from my phone and told relatives that he was on the Maidan. We stood shoulder to shoulder, when the “clones” attacked, when the Berkut troops started advancing on the Maidan. And I was also thinking about how and who I should call at home.” recalls a Self-Defence member “We were standing at the 33rd checkpoint together. Serhiy voted for me as head of our group. Personally, the Maidan ended for me when Serhiy was killed.”
“The Maidan had to happen. Despite the fact that we now have war.” concludes a volunteer sitting at the dinner table in the Fourth Tower. “Otherwise, how could we have got rid of that old idiot? Should we have continued in silence? Returned to Russia again? Maidan was needed. But, we mustn’t allow a third Maidan to happen. If there’s a third Maidan, Ukraine will be no more. Because weapons and guns will be used. We can’t allow that to happen…”