Thursday, December 09, 2004
Alive in Ukraine
(12/3/04) I have made it alive to Ukraine. I have arrived at one of the most volatile and crazy times to be in this country. The Russian backed criminal 'mafia' government has declared itself the winner of the country's elections and as a result over 500,000+ people have gone on strike and are on protest in the downtown core. It is insane the passion and conviction of this mob. It is cold and windy and damp and snowy - but nothing stops these people from fighting for their country... they won't let it fall into the hands of criminals anymore. They have taken over Kiev and setup a tent city on all the major streets downtown. Day and Night - no difference.
Mariya and I have been down to the Independence Square (the center of the action) on a number of occasions now - the crowd sings revolution songs and chants the name of the opposition leader constantly "Yushchenko, Yushchenko, Yushchenko!". I can't close my eyes to sleep without hearing the chanting in my head. There is talk that the Supreme Court will declare that there will be a third election to take place in the next couple weeks... I pray there will be a good outcome and there will be no violence or bloodshed. The Supreme Court is to rule today on what it will do next for the future of the country.
There are some major adjustments to get used to here. First there seems to be no rules to the roads other than to do whatever you need to do, to get where you are going... people drive into oncoming traffic on a regular basis, and make their own lanes wherever they see fit... be that the sidewalk - in front of a subway car - or on the shoulder. No one wears their seatbelt. It should either be one or the other. Not both.
Every single business has half its retail space devoted to booze - at least half. Everyone drinks and smokes... and does it everywhere. Drinking on the subway, in the malls, on the streets.
There are 4 or 5 different branches to the military police here, and there are armed guards everywhere. I can't get used to the snipers on the roof tops. It just seems a little too easy to get killed by accident. Oh... and I have been warned on many occasions not to speak English if I am by myself. I have taken this advice seriously.
I will never take for granted how lucky it is to live in a free society - nor will I ever take for granted how lucky I was to be born in Canada.