Face to face with the men on EuroMaidan’s barricades (photo journal)

One cannot use brute force to quell protesters
against a criminal regime.
The spirit and the soul are indestructible and will live forever.

Kiev 10pm, Feb. 1, 2014 Inside one of the hundreds of tents dotted around Independence Square. This man is from the region of Carpathia (600km to the west of Kiev) and has been living in this tent with his friends for 8 weeks.

Kiev 10pm, Feb. 1, 2014
Inside one of the hundreds of tents dotted around Independence Square. This man is from the region of Carpathia (600km to the west of Kiev) and has been living in this tent with his friends for 8 weeks.

If a picture tells a thousand words, NY-based social documentary photographer Giles Clarke has created libraries full. From the faces of the victims of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India to an unprecedented look at those languishing in prison pits for gangs in El Salvador, post-earthquake Haiti, or Occupy Wall Street, he shoots with a keen eye to a forgotten clear humanity in those who have been discarded by the system. In Kyiv, he turned his camera to some intimate insights into those who have put up such a powerful resistance at the front lines of the city’s EuroMaidan barricades from January to February of 2014. This is his lived photographic experience of Maidan, one face after another, peppered with some relevant reflections. 

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The Kyiv EuroMaidan barricades – This extraordinary landscape and the remarkable resolve of those who are manning Kyiv barricades will stay with me for a very long time.

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Over the past week, I talked to many of these blackened by soot and dirt ‘defenders’ – Brave souls at this last line of defense who are prepared to die fighting these government special forces (‘Berkut’) rather than let them take over the vast EuroMaidan camp just over half a mile away in Independence Square [Maidan Nezalezhnosty].

Maidan Nezalezhnosty, Kyiv.

Maidan Nezalezhnosty, Kyiv.

It was just over 9 weeks ago that these crude, but very effective, barricades were put in place by anti-government protestors.

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At the last line of barricades, there are a select few who take turns in manning the final point of resistance.

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As I walked around this morning on the blackened ice strewn with rubble and grit, I met a few of those who are risking it all to defend their country from further oppression and corruption.

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They are resolute and tell me they are prepared to die for ‘new leaders, new times’ (Feb. 4, 2014).

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Many want me to take their picture – Not afraid to be known as a ‘front line protester.’

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As I walked back to the comfort of my hotel room. I leave men who may – depending on Parliamentary decisions – be locked in heavy fighting in just a few hours time (Feb. 4, 2014).

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In a tent in Independence Square, protestors prepare to head to the frontlines of ‘European Square.’ All those who wish to engage in manning the barricades have to be cleared and given passes by EuroMaidan organizers.

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It is not a free-for-all shit-fest at the front with a bunch of random thugs – Quite the opposite – They maintain a highly organized personal operation despite local media branding them as hoodlums and vandals.

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They appear not to be inherently violent or aggressive people – rather, impassioned by recent events and determined to stop the blatant killings by government-paid militia groups.

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Many of these men come from places all over Kyiv and are NOT paid in any way to be there.

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They come from Ukrainian towns that were choked and overrun for decades by badly-corrupted governance, and have for the past ten weeks called this wreckage-strewn landscape ‘home.’

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The ‘Berkut’ and other paid government thugs known as ‘Tituschkas’ have receded into the shadows for now.

BERKUT SUNRISE

After the ‘Berkut’ sniper attacks in this spot last week where two of these frontline defenders were killed, the barricade area has been relatively quiet as prolonged emergency talks take place.

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This has given the now huge army of peaceful protestors who occupy former government and ministry buildings around Independence Square, the time to work on critical issues and future-planning.

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Today Friday, February 7, a group of very active students are going to be taking over the Ministry of Education.

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Once they have the building, they will be ready in place with councils of teachers and educators who will get to work immediately on new learning/education-financing structures.

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As this current regime falls, new leaders are appearing – ones that supposedly have the people in mind.

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We shall see–oligarchs and big-business run this place–but for now, there is a consensus growing that this is the time of the people’s voice – ‘We are for ourselves – the first time’ said one defender as he warmed by a burning oil-barrel.

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One has to assume there will be attempts–possibly violent–to undermine all this, but given the impetus now and massive public support, it will be hard to see this EuroMaidan train stopping any time soon (Feb. 7, 2014).

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Early morning ‘borscht’ cooks in the ‘Lviv’ encampment off Independence Square. (Lviv is a Ukrainian town a few hundred km’s west of Kiev).

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Temps down to -21 degrees Celsius last night! Slow stirring in the Square as chimneys smoke from the hundreds of large green tents – a lone guitarist on the EuroMaiden stage strums the morning into life. More big events planned on that stage later today.

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Kiev/Ukraine, Feb. 1, 2014
Barricades like this one have been in place for over nine weeks now – Most of the center of the city is blocked off and there are no police within the walled off areas.

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It is a very surreal scene as people come and watch the front-line protestors from vantage points like this – often shouting their support starting a chorus of ‘Pro-Ukraine’ chants all round. It is bitterly cold – now near minus 20 degrees celsius.

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Keeping watch on the front-line of EuroMaidan.

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The on-going protests–Some images of the men who were on duty at the EuroSquare barricades over the past couple of days.

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This is the front-line where protestors stand and wait – a line of defiance against the government of corruption.

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The cops with shields and batons are only 100 yards away behind a no man’s land of blackened sheet ice.

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They rotate the watch in 2 hour shifts and keep warm around burning oil drums when not watching the line of cops.

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Earlier in the month, 2 people were shot and killed here by sniper fire with scores more injured in running battles in the neighboring streets.

Shrine honoring the 4 protestors shot and killed by government forces. Guilty parliament and ministry officials are placed behind bars.

Shrine honoring the 4 protestors shot and killed by government forces. Guilty parliament and ministry officials are placed behind bars.

It was quiet over the past few days, but tension seems to be rising again with loud explosions heard earlier this evening but reports unclear as to what is going on exactly (Feb. 3, 2014)

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I met ‘Max’ one morning as the sun came up over the barricades. He is a merchant sailor- one of many I met here- and spoke very good english. He told me about his family and and where he was from. He hopes one day The Ukraine will be free from Russia, the EU and or the US but remains realistic. ‘We know we have things people want but we have too much debt because we have been badly run – It might happen but one day I hope Ukraine is free and stands alone’. (Feb3/Max)

Max, Feb. 3, 2014

Max, Feb. 3, 2014

The tents of Independence Square.

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Meet ‘Sergyi’, (right) the camp Commander of the Kherson region tent just off Independence Square in Central Kiev. He and his compatriots upped and left his home town of Nova Kahovka, some 600 km’s south on November 22 2013- the day after the protests began in The Ukraine. ‘I will not leave, we will not leave till there is a complete new Government – and then it better be good or I will die here’.
The tent they put up is manned by 15 of his ‘close friends’ – (friends one would not want to mess with simply said). ‘The people of Kiev bring us food and wood everyday- good people help us’
‘I take my electricity from the metro station below’ – I need light to run the revolution and they (the Government) can pay for it!’ (Feb. 1, 2014).

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European Square – One of the closest tents to the frontline. Inside are a select few who are medically trained and ‘immediate supporters.’

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This man invites people into a ‘warm-up’ tent in Independence Square. Inside there are two wood burning stoves.

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This man was from Poland – a former boxer.

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Supplies are constantly ferried to the guys at the barricades in European Square from tents or kitchens in Ukraine House – a former government building one quarter of a mile away.

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Kiev. Parliament and political leaders frozen. (Feb. 5, 2014)

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Yesterday, in an emergency debate, the Ukrainian Parliament failed to agree on reducing President Viktor Yanukovych’s powers – as called for by opposition leaders.

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Sanctions are now being threatened seriously by Western leaders, with Germany appearing to take the lead after their top diplomat to Ukraine publicly stated that “sanctions should be now be displayed as a threat.”

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This morning parliamentary debates continue with many on the street here concerned by the ongoing political deadlock coupled with the fragility of tension now rising almost hourly.

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Last night, I spoke to a commander of ‘Spilna’ in a tent inside the barricades. This Right-Wing security group have numbers of about 3,000 in and around Kiev.

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Contrary to much Western/Ukrainian press, these ex-military/volunteers are only offering themselves to fight against the ‘Berkut’ (Ukrainian Special Forces) and NOT inflaming or attacking the civilian population.

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‘We are here to protect people from the Government forces – It was ‘Berkut’ who were responsible for the deaths of our people last week – if they try that again, they will pay.

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Yes, We are armed, Yes, we have the numbers and YES, we are prepared to die.’ I asked him about reports of attacks on other protestors. ‘They are lies – created by government press.’

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He went on to say that there are 4,000 ‘Berkut’ in Kiev and another 1,000 scattered in outlying areas. ‘The police are not a problem for us – it’s ‘Berkut’ who will be targeted if we are told to mobilize.’

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As I left the tent at well past midnight, I could not help thinking that if the parliament continues to stall and no agreement is reached VERY soon, one small incident might well set this powder-keg off.

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In Ukraine, at this moment, is the collective anger that’s portrayed.

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I haven’t seen anything like this in Europe, in Greece. The whole of the center of the city is blocked off. I think that even in the US and the UK and France and other European countries people don’t really understand the gravity of what’s going on here.

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In a way, Ukraine has always been somewhat forgotten, it’s rather like Czechoslovakia after WW2.

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In fact the two Prime Ministers of England and France only spent 30 minutes in a pub in England talking about the issues here, it kind of reflects exactly how the rest of the world spends their time thinking about it.

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The people of Ukraine had to make a statement and they’ve done it very well.

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One has to remember that three protesters this time last week were killed.

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I think that these unfortunate incidents have put it into the forefront.

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I just hope that foreign media outlets, and from ambassadors all the way through to the dignitaries, they have to come to some agreement, they have to put pressure on Yanukovych, he has to step down and the constitution has to be renewed.

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One of the things I was very wary of, I didn’t want to show just the beatings, I wasn’t here for that.

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I think the important thing to remember here is that it’s about the people.

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The people are looking for dignity and very simply they’re looking for a just system.

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One of the things that comes through my work is the human element, the human contact.

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And maybe that’s an emotion that shows or a small reflection of how they are without it having to be some grand statement.

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One of the things I try to do is to portray a brutal honesty.

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Sometimes that way of showing things, whether through pictures or through words, inherently strikes some kind of emotion.

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What a story you are telling us – and what intense and brilliant images.
The whole world should see these to understand
the hardship and bravery of these Ukrainians.
Thank you Giles. We are with you all in spirit.
(Janie Rayne, February 4)

Kyiv Vilne

Kyiv – Free

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by Isis Wisdom, Voices of Ukraine

This entry was posted in "Voices" in English, English, Maidan Diary, Pictures, Voices of Revolution and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Face to face with the men on EuroMaidan’s barricades (photo journal)

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