Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine
Postcards from Maidan is an art initiative that helps facilitate the psychological rehabilitation and physical recovery of patients. Artists visit the wounded and use drawings as a storytelling mechanism of Maidan. The wounded are later presented with the drawings. This is the story of one Maidan protester. This is story #15.
Ihor Platonov, 44 years old, Truskavets, Lviv Oblast [region]
Beaten by law enforcement on February 18-20, suffered pneumonia on Maidan.
Ihor Platonov spoke about his participation in the protests with artist Oleksiy Salmanov.
“I wanted to be directly involved in the events because I had a specific set of skills—I served [in the military], as a commander during the Soviet era. And we guarded the medical unit at a library on Hrushevsky Street. We were captured the first time when we brought [Serhiy] Nigoyan—the first corpse. Then the operatives and criminal police came over to witness it, and at the same time, the assault began. There were a lot of people at the entrance to the medical unit, and we were warned that the enemy was coming through from [the direction of] the monument to Lobanovsky [soccer player and coach]. They came out, so brazenly, and started throwing grenades. Usually when the first started to run, they are followed by [many]… And [so] we closed [the doors] and barricaded [ourselves] inside the medical unit. There were about ten of us, there was the head of the [Maidan] medical service with us, the body was lying down, and then there were these [guys] from criminal police. The “Berkuts” ran past us, one of them stopped and tore down the [Ukrainian] flag. And one of them stopped and looked into a window. We asked, rather rudely, for a deputy minister to be there, to come over to this soldier [who in fact was] the ‘Berkut’ guy, show his ID and ask them not to storm [the building]. Because we were ready to go to extreme measures—such as take one of the police officers (who was with us) hostage—we heard a rumor that they wanted to take the body. The ‘Berkuts’ passed the medical unit and didn’t touch anyone. They walked back, dragging the barrels [Berkut stole some of the protesters’ fire barrels in the early attacks]. There was a reporter there, I don’t remember where he was from, he recorded all this. Then the attack began.”
“And then there was another capture. There was an interesting person in our Company [4th Sotnya], Misha, the one who was stripped naked [Mykhailo Harvryliuk]. Nobody knows how it all happened, because he doesn’t remember who knocked him down off his feet. They came over, we tried to barricade ourselves in, but they broke the windows and threw grenades. Two of ours got wounded, and everyone left through the back door. Only Misha and another guy, the Tajik, weren’t able to leave. The fate of the Tajik was unknown for a long time, he was at the detention center—they let him out, but with ‘bracelets’ and he was released on his own recognizance. Misha was supposedly captured while holding a bottle with a Molotov cocktail—but someone among our guys knocked him down. He definitely remembers this. And when the last people were leaving through the back door, they were shot in their backs.”
“There were two more attacks like this, when all the people were leaving in the same chaotic manner, and the medical unit was blocked.”
“I was at the Trades Union House. We were the last ones to leave the 6th floor. Our neighbors left at 8 o’clock—they left the building and came up to our commandant saying, ‘Guys, leave [the building] because an assault will take place.’ How did they find out about it? We decided to stay. We had one wounded, a grandfather who got beat up at Mariinskyi Park. And we had a girl, who now works at the medical unit. And the commandant. We knocked the windows out, made Molotov cocktails, and tried to throw them—there was a barricade that the APC [armored personnel carrier] approached. This was all we could do. There is the video we made from the 6th floor—I don’t have it with me. The reporters came, we let them in for five minutes. And then someone started the fire, it came from somewhere. We ran to the 2nd floor to find out how long we could stay there, because we were afraid they would come over. They had already closed in, by the portable toilets, across from the ‘Russian Sberbank.’ We were afraid we wouldn’t be able to leave on time. We can’t understand how the building fire was started because we were the last ones to leave. There are versions [of the story] that some people remained inside, but all the offices were open. It burned on the bottom and on the top. They said there were machine gunners on the roof already. There was panic. We took this wounded man and the girl out. Then we tried to come back, but there was smoke. And then there was fear, we were afraid about how we would exit.”
“Also, there was an armed fight on Shelkovychna Street when everyone went to the Verkhovna Rada [Ukrainian Parliament]. We stopped there. People climbed onto the roof and started throwing grenades. Myself and another guy, we kicked them out from there—there is a video on the Internet. We hung the [Ukrainian] flag… There are many inexplicable things, the armed fight lasted a very long time. We came back to Mariinskyi Park and looked for our company. There, people were standing relaxed, waiting for something to go down: some drank coffee, some tea, talking. We came over, and then everything started. Running, chaotic running. Everyone ran, people in front kept falling. There were about 20 people left in our sotnya that night. There was no commander left, nobody. We were afraid, we waited. I was waiting for them to drive out of Lviv already [Ed. note: not sure who he means here]. Of course, I’m older, but still want to live a normal life…”
“About Crimea: what a story it was! On February 20 and 21, a man and I worked at the medical unit. I had two acquaintances with cars, and the nurse in charge asked for help: we transported medications, picked up the wounded, searched for houses to shelter them in. Then one time a guy approached me and suggested I go to Crimea. I asked him how the situation was there—I had practically no time to watch TV. I didn’t have any compelling reasons not to trust him, but he said that there were the same barricades and the same Maidan there, and that they needed some kind of support. I told him, ‘Warn the people, so that they know we are coming.’ When he came over, he said that we have the tickets and the money, and their headquarters asked us to hurry up and come faster—since there was some action there, let the guys come to Crimea. I wore the captured bulletproof vest—got it on Shelkovychna Street, there were two or three of these vests on the whole Maidan. So sorry about that (but I even promised I will take everything back)! But they confiscated practically everything of mine.”
“We boarded the train, behaved normally, I hid my bulletproof vest, everything looked like a civilian traveling—the only thing that stuck out was the scout-looking jacket. When we were on the train, everything was ideal. Maybe a couple of people passed that could make me suspicious. But when we came up to Dzhankoy, about 10 people approached the train, half of them in civilian clothing, half in uniforms. They came inside the train and asked who was riding in that spot. And I was the one in that spot. They asked if I had some special equipment. I said, ‘What special equipment?!’ And they, ‘We’ll see which one.’ They looked through my bag. Those in civilian clothes searched us. A policeman came over, saying ‘I won’t touch, let the people look through.’ They asked what I was bringing with me; I said nothing, just a tank top. They asked, where are you going? I said, to Yalta. I have lots of acquaintances there, so I said I was going to visit them. ‘Where are you coming from?’ I said, ‘From Kyiv.’ They searched the people from our compartment, opened the luggage. I thought that was the end of it.”
“But when we arrived in Simferopol, 15 people were there to meet us. When we began leaving the train, they encircled us and said, ‘Go here.’ I had the bulletproof vest under the jacket. Grabbed the bags, ‘Where are your documents?’ Nothing said there was trouble, but when they were taking us to the railway station, I didn’t notice any sympathizers. There were people shouting, ‘Kill them.’ We were led in front of all the people. They told me to take off my bulletproof vest, people noticed it. They were wearing civilian clothes, so many of them in civilian clothes. One gray-haired man acted in a very defiant manner. Came over and asked, ‘You think you are immortal?’ But I saw him for the first time [in my life]! I can give people a call, who would confirm that I am a normal person, that I have a job in Yalta, that people will be happy to see me. But this man said that I should carry the bulletproof vest in my arms—for everyone to see. They took us to the [police] station located at the railway. Someone took our pictures, someone videotaped us, some shouted. I realized that the situation here was completely different from what I had been told. They brought me inside the police station, told me to put everything I had on the table. Everything. They started examining the plates from the bulletproof vest—if there were warped spots, its number, any rips, stains on it. Then they examined my hands, searched for baby lotion, asked if I moisturized my hands with it—no idea why. They examined my neck, I lifted my pant legs. They recorded me on camera, recorded my voice. I had exclusive videos on my phone, from the very heart [of events]: from the Trade Union, from Shovkovychna Street, on the roof, somewhere else. I didn’t show them to anyone. They asked where my phone was. I showed them this one: they gave it to me to use on Maidan, the other one was pricey. They said to me, ‘This isn’t the phone you are showing me!’ They found my medal. The guy said, ‘The medal is also ours.’ Those were the cops. Then the ‘Berkut’ came over. I turned around, and he put the barrel into my mouth. Kalashnikov [assault rifle]. He was in a maroon beret, the chief, a big guy. The others didn’t wear berets. They were unshaven, and looked a tad spent. Held me by the arms unenthusiastically, stood arrogantly, indifferently. He hit me a couple of times. And the one guy in civilian clothes told him, ‘No,’ because they were filming. They took all of our belongings and made us sign some papers.”
“We went to Yalta. Boarded a minibus: got the impression that nobody could understand anything, but everyone looked at us with hostility. We arrived. You know, guys, I know this city very well, I spent a lot of time there. I might come there for half a year, for two to three months. I talked to normal people there. I have a small business there. When I came, I just saw many people who had nothing to do with Yalta. I felt that wherever I walked, they were following in my steps. At first, I thought that it was probably because of my military boots, so I covered them with pants. You know, I’m a cautious person. Then I went to the market to visit a man, he’s a Tatar. He says, ‘How are you?’ I explained that I could be having a problem now. He just advised me, ‘I’ll give you the money—leave!’ A lot of athletic guys, not Ukrainians. They send them over. They sent over a girl, she tried to treat us to beer, asked if I was from Dagestan or not. What, Dagestani, me?.. Then they sent over a more interesting intellectual man. Who out of the blue started offering 70-Hryvnia wine [USD $6], started the conversation about a monument to Lenin, invited us to his house. We felt that we had to leave—even into the forest, just leave this place. They set up the tents, these young people with ‘aiguillettes…’ [military shoulder braids].”
“We were told to go to Simferopol, as there were fellow ‘Maidaners’ there. I felt that we could be in the same situation again, but we had no other choice. I got off in the downtown area. As I walked, I found myself at a pro-Russian rally. Everyone with the flags and looking at you in the same manner. I saw a man in the maroon beret from before—he was wearing civilian clothes already, walking toward me and looked up at me. We saw many of them from the Interior Ministry. Wherever I went, I ran into those whom I didn’t want to see. We went at night, a KAMAZ [Russian truck model] was standing there, soldiers stood in masks, with automatic machine guns, ones I’ve never seen before. Ten meters away [from us]. They looked at us brazenly, and behaved with prejudice. They didn’t just stand there, but danced, they all had relaxed postures.”
“We left for Kharkiv. In Kharkiv, people led us practically everywhere. A girl took me by the arm because the police were following us. About five men with machine guns. They were hanging around the [railway] car. When we came to Kyiv, I began to understand a little what it was all about.”
“I have certain intentions; after all, I plan to get to Crimea somehow. The mood there … People need to be fed information very, very lightly… They say that all Ukrainian [TV] channels are completely blocked there. And we don’t know what’s going on there! We can only find out when you chat with a Tatar as a friend. When you talk to a soldier.”
“The threatening moment is in this. They say that there is a Chechen battalion in Dzhankoy now.”
“Personally, I didn’t necessarily feel the unconcealed hatred, but [their] willingness to use some force. Even if they didn’t touch us, they still steered us. Wherever I went, whomever I talked to, whatever attic the gun was hidden in (laughs).”
“There are stories that not everyone wants to hear about. About fleeing from Mariinsky Park, about when someone ended up somewhere for unknown reasons. And then there is this story—my best friend and I once took a b-i-i-g box with condensed milk and thi-i-is big of a box with chocolate. We thought to distribute it among our [guys]. But knowing the specifics quite well, in the end we decided to go to Troyeshchyna [Kyiv suburb] and give it to children outside in the courtyards. We were sitting down, people were asking us questions, trying on the bulletproof vest. Not everyone even knew what was happening on Maidan, what it was. We gave all of this condensed milk away, all this chocolate! And people were so happy and content. They invited us to bathe, shave, [people] brought camouflage, medications. So many of these stories, very many.”
“I’m on the mend!”
After the conversation with Ihor Platonov, artist Oleksiy Salmanov made portraits of the protester.
Source: postcards from maidan