Olesya Kravchuk lives and works in Kyiv. Below are her reflections on the situation in Ukraine, published with Olesya's permission on Pittsblogh.
I am from Ternopil, Ukraine. It's in the western part of Ukraine. People from Western Ukraine have a distinguishable characteristic, historically they've been driven by patriotic feelings and pursuit of freedom. We have been part of Poland and Austro-Hungarian Empire longer than we have been part of the Soviet Union. People from the western part of Ukraine have a legacy of fighting for independent, free Ukraine. It is important for us to be speaking up now for our future, for a good life.
People gather at the Independence Square in Kiyv on Friday (Marko Drobnjakovic/Associated Press)
I used to work as a journalist for a long time, now I work for an international project, I would not want to name it because the views expressed here are my own, and I don't want to make it seem as if I am saying things simply because of where I work…
So here is how things began. Ukrainian people started gathering on the square because they wanted our government to sign an agreement with the European Union. I myself went to the square in November for the first time, and I went there because I saw that it was the place where people gathered to express their will, not because someone paid me or forced me to go there. I stood there for my rights. I thought our President would pay attention and hear us. It didn't happen...
I have been coming back to the square in the past 3 months. I donated money, I talked to people there. I wanted to know what they think and what they are going to do next. The last time I went to the square was about a week ago. People were tired of standing there and they were disappointed that the government does not hear them. I know a lot of people who have been standing on the square in Kyiv and on the squares in different cities across the country. I recently met a girl who was friends with Belorussian guy that got killed on Jan. 20. She said she didn't understand why it happened. She also said she will stand on barricades for her friend now.
About two weeks ago I woke up because I had a nightmare. It was as if I was at work (which is in the center of Kyiv) and the entrance to the subway was closed by police. In my dream I asked myself, "What should I do?" - walk home, go home by bus or go to the square and fight. In my dream I chose to go and fight. On Tuesday, Feb. 18, my dream came true. The subway in the entire city was closed. I live not far from my work, so it took me about 40 minutes to walk home. Most people were not that lucky and they had to walk 2-4 hours. On Tuesday, when I was walking through the crowd, I heard people saying that they walked 20 km. I also read in the news later that day that older people were just falling down on the streets -- too tired, they couldn't walk for long. The traffic was horrible. Because of all the fires in the city, I had trouble breathing while I was walking. When I was little, I had bronchitis so even now I can feel the changes in the air. I didn't go to the square this week. I wanted to, but then I remembered that I am the only child. I thought of my mom and went home.
It's really frustrating to sit at home and just to watch TV. I always feel I want to go outside and do something, but yes, I am scared, and I think of my family. I am also thinking that I am just a woman and cannot do much. I didn't go to work for three days, but I went grocery shopping. In my part of the city (which is like 5 km away from the square) everything looks safe and kind of normal. The shops and markets work, there are just less cars and less people on the streets. I made some food and brought it to the hospital, for the wounded people. There were a lot of people at the hospital and all of them brought food, medicine or money. Everyone wanted to help!
I feel like I live in some horror movie produced in Hollywood or am stuck in a nightmare. I wish I could wake up tomorrow and forget everything that happened to my nation. I know that those who died will never be with us again and this makes me cry when I am watching the news. Those people on the square are not extremists, they are not terrorists! We just want to have a good life in Ukraine that is not corrupt and is for us and not for Russia or the European Union. We want to save our independence and we want to be free. We are sick and tired of bandits dictating us what to do, taking our businesses away and wanting us to shut up. More than 100 people died, and police said they killed themselves because, apparently, the police force does not have guns. Who are they fooling?
I have a lot of friends all over the world and everyone is concerned about the situation in Ukraine these days. I get asked about it a lot and I really appreciate the support from everybody. There are sometimes those, who want to help Ukraine, and they ask what they can do in their own countries. Please call or email your city mayors, your local and country governments and let them know they should impose sanctions against Ukrainian government. Tell them to ignore Yanukovych and other government officials from Ukraine at the official meetings. Tell them he is a dictator and people in Ukraine struggle and are getting killed by his regime. People are dying every day and this is only his fault. We, Ukrainians, need your help and we hope we can solve this conflict in a peaceful way with the help of the international community. We do not want blood, we just want a good life for us and our children!