House of Trade Unions fire: More bodies found and dramatic rescue

photo Chris Collison

The Public Chamber of Ukraine
25.02. 2014  FACTS
Translated by Olia Knight
Edited by Isis Wisdom

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On the night of February 19, when law enforcement officers started to storm Maidan, the House of Trade Unions caught fire on Independence Square [Maidan] in Kyiv. Berkut riot police torched the protester tents, and the fire moved to the lower floors of the building. Luckily, medics and activists managed to evacuate the wounded that were kept in the building. According to witness statements, they saw dark shadows on the roof of the Trade Unions House at the time of the fire. Soon, the upper floors of the building were burning as well.

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– I was standing next to the Independence monument with our other guys trying to hold back the advancement of interior troops, – says famous journalist and civil activist, Euromaidan organizer, and husband of TV anchor Marichka Padalko as well as father of four children, Yegov Sobolev. – Incidentally turning my head in the direction of the burning House of Trade Unions, I saw how the glass on the 6th floor started falling to the ground. Then a figure of a man appeared in the window. He came out to the outer side of the window frame and stood there, holding on to the wall. I could see a fire licking the ceiling behind him through the window. By that time, the fire engulfed the whole building.

– I rushed to the House of Trade Unions. There were a couple of dozen men gathered around it. Just like me, they stopped guarding the barricades and ran to save the young man. Someone grabbed a burnt tent. Luckily, the tent was big. About fifty men stretched the tent out under the window where the young man was standing, and started shouting, “Jump!” to him. He could not muster the courage to jump. For good reason! There was no less than 20 meters between the window and the ground. Large pieces of plaster kept falling of the walls, the windows kept exploding and breaking into little pieces from the heat of the fire, parts of building materials kept on falling from the roof… It was all falling onto our heads. It was really eerie.

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Seeing that the young man was afraid to jump, one of the men standing underneath him started climbing the wall. Judging by his skillful ascent, he was a professional mountain climber. On the front wall of the House of Trade Unions  there was an enormous screen people used to transmit the events on Maidan. The fire engulfed it as well: the whole screen was illuminated by the pink glow from the inside. The screen had already burned out, but the wall mount was still intact. Moving up the wall mount, the climber reached the sixth floor, gave a hand to the young man hanging on the edge of the windowsill, and they both starting going down.

Meanwhile, another brave guy climbed the wall: he procured a coil of rope somewhere. Together with the climber, they attached one end of the rope to the builder’s net and, wrapping themselves with the other end of the rope, they all started to go down together. Both of the “rescuers” held on to the man, and tried to cheer him up. With only a few meters left to the ground, all of them jumped to the stretched out tent. Happy that everyone was safe and sound, we greeted each other and ran back to protect the barricades.

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At that moment I thought there was no more beautiful place on earth than Maidan. In a situation where grenades explode and bullets hiss nearby, the young men did everything possible to save a stranger. Well done! In some time, I got a message that three young women called the Headquarters of the National Resistance. They hid from the fire in one of the rooms on the 8th floor. They kept asking what they should do. Luckily, there were a number of fire trucks on Maidan already. The rescuers helped the girls out of the burning building.

After the fire at the House of Trade Unions was put out, the Maidan doctors carried four charred bodies out of the building. One of the medics said to journalists: “The deceased had multiple fractures on his legs and arms. It looks as if they were badly beaten before they died.” That is how the version [of this event] that the special forces attacked the people located in the building, appeared.

Chris Collison photo

The bodies of those deceased during the fire were laid out on the territory of the Mykhaylivsky monastery. Then the activists took them to the central entrance of the Kyiv police office located across the way from the monastery. Their further destiny is unknown.

Meanwhile, a member of Ukrainian parliament, Sergiy Sobolev, announced that at least 40 people died alive within the walls of the House of Trade Unions. It is likely they were medical patients [with injuries too severe to allow them any mobility]. “The interior troops threw grenades to the 1st and 9th floors simultaneously. It was a special operation. A very cruel undertaking. There were around 100 wounded in the building, unable to move on their own. We do not even know their names, and are therefore unable to make a list of the deceased,” said Sobolev. According to the latest update, they found 11 charred bodies at the House of Trade Unions.

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VIDEO: Babylon’ 13 video of the rescue –

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooiwXyo4N9s#t=80]
This entry was posted in "Voices" in English, English, English News, Languages, Maidan Diary, News, Pictures, Video, Voices of Revolution and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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