A religious Jew attending who attends Brodsky Central synagogue found himself in the thick of the seizure of Ukrainsky Dim (Ukrainian House) in Kyiv. Alongside Ukrainian radical Nationalists from “Right Sector” he took part in both the offensive on this important building on January 26, and in the negotiations that led to the non-violent departure of 200 of the Yanukovych bureaucracy’s militiamen.On 4.30 am, January 26, a few thousand protesters from Maidan entered the Ukrainsky Dim (former Lenin Museum) building at the end of Khreshchatyk Street. Despite a standoff, the building was seized a few minutes after 200 armed cadets and internal forces soldiers left through the side exit. A lossless and non-violent retreat became possible as a result of 3 hours of late-night negotiations between the troop inside and the protest leaders.
A young Jewish Maidan activist who has already been participating in the opposition movement for some weeks found himself on the edge of the negotiations . He regularly prays in Brodsky synagogue, is well-known in Kyiv’s Jewish community and business circles. He described to Forum Daily all the details of that night, but asked not to mention his name in order to avoid possible persecutions.
Below you can follow his story about the rough events when the fates of two hundred barricaded power defenders and thousands Maidan supporters were being decided . Their clash could have lead to horrible bloodshed.
“I held the negotiations and let them (cadets and militiamen) out. I had been holding back the crowd for two hours, or the soldiers might well have been lynched! I’ve been arranging agreements with their colonel and waiting for Vitaliy Klitschko. A command was given to make a corridor for the wounded (soldiers’) departure. Only when Klitschko and other deputies arrived, did we let them (soldiers) out through the corridor.
About the soldiers’ departure: “They surely did not leave as heroes. Some were crying, begging us not to take their clothes off” [a reference to the field-stripping of kozak Mykhailo Havrylyuk at the hands of Ministry of Interior Affairs troops].
“When we cleared the building we noticed two banners in a special room. The guys decided to take them out to the barricades and Maidan, with the intent to bring them back afterwards. All of this was meant to cheer up the spirit of our battlers as these flags are the symbols of the president’s power. I brought the presidential standard to Maidan around 5 am and we stood with the flag on the scene for some time. It felt like holding the banner on the Reichstag roof. What happened next?.. We just brought the flag back where it should be. The strategic victory in Ukrainsky Dim was of greater importance”.
“I am telling this to you to prove the role of the Jewish community in the Maidan protests. What we do is not only a response to requests for help. We take an active part resisting the dictatorship and supporting European values. We surely don’t hide. I’ve seen maybe a dozen of Jewish guys who supported Maidan. My friend Valeriy, one of the Maidan ideologists, is also Jewish”.
The activist has also told about his contacts with the ‘toughest’ Maidan protesters– the so-called “Right Sector” fighters. There are many activists from ultra-Nationalist Ukrainian groups among them, as you may know. However, this religious Jew has learned how to communicate with them.
“They are conscious of what they are doing. Marauders, if there are any, come only from the official power’s side. I deal with the “Right Sector” radicals. They are OK. We communicate like any fighters do. I did lead their group on that Thursday night. Still everybody knows I’m Jewish and there’s nothing about it but some friendly hugs, they follow my advice and order – how to hold positions, to make a barricade”.
Does he know personally Roman Kolomyets, the “Right Sector” activist who has recently followed his Facebook call to fight “berkuts” on Hrushevskogo street with a picture showing a Ukrainian beating a bleeding Jew with iron chains? No, our narrator hasn’t heard of this person.
Three hours after Ukrainsky Dim was peacefully taken and the bloodshed prevented, the narrator received an SMS from his Ukrainian friend, one of the main negotiators on this rough night:
“thank you, Brother. But I ask of you – no grand words. Our Deeds will tell of us. As usual – after death…
thank you for being next to me, Fighter! I will not forget this.”
“That who saved one soul has saved the whole world!:)”
“That who saved at least one human life has saved humanity. Schindler’s list. Spielberg. I know how to make concusions. And I have made them for myself
The protest rally did not leave Ukrainian Jewish community aside. Although religious authorities like Moshe-Reuven-Asman, chief Rabbi of Ukraine, invoke their followers to retain neutrality in this conflict, many young Jews are taking an active part in the opposition movement.
Another young man, known in Kyiv’s synagogue, has been among the Automaidan activists. Not so long ago he was attacked by“Berkut”: as his friends tell, the special forces officers dragged him out of his car and cruelly beat him with their batons. Luckily, he fled with a hand broken, numerous hematomas and open wounds, and his right lung seriously injured. Now he is staying in a safe place waiting for a lung operation.
You can see them participating in almost every kind of Maidan activity, among the ideologists, the journalists, doctors and among the front line fighters like the hero of this article.
Acording to a survey taken, the main reasons for Jews to join Maidan are the lawlessness of authorities, total corruption, repression of liberties and the absence of European opportunities for Ukraine. Nevertheless, they hope the protest rallies will not lead to the ultra-Nationalistic outbursts, clashes and overall chaos.
Translated by Irina Kostyshina
Edited by James Hydzik