The sotnyk who turned it around: We had to break them down

2014/02/25 • Analysis & Opinion

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by Oksana Kovalenko, Ukraiynska Pravda

24 February 2014

Volodymyr Parasiuk is the very man who has turned the revolution around and kept Viktor Yanukovych from remaining at Bankova Street for another eight months.

It was he who made it through to the stage on Friday, 21 February 2014, after the “settlement agreement” was signed between the then-president and the opposition leaders. He delivered an ultimatum, raising the politicians’ morale and causing Yanukovych to flee Mezhyhiria for parts unknown.

We met him on Sunday, 23 February 2014, in the Conservatory building. Before the meeting, we had asked our social network readers to send us questions for him. There were no questions for Volodymyr. However, we received a great many messages and requests from all over Ukraine and even Russia to shake his courageous hand.

In reply,  he shyly asked that he not be lionized.

Ukraiynska Pravda found out what, exactly, prompted Parasiuk to take the stage that day, and whether the politicians tried to persuade him not to do so.

– Volodymyr, everybody remembered you wearing a military uniform, but you don’t seem to be a military man. Please tell us about yourself. What did you do in your peaceful everyday life, what did you do for a living? What was your occupation?

– Currently I have a small film studio. We do different TV programs and film celebrations. I earned my degree at Lviv National Ivan Franko University, faculty of economics. I am 26 years old.

– You are a sotnyk [leader of a sotnya, or unit–Ed.] In other words, you lead other people. Have you studied military science?

– I used to be a member of a students’ fellowship in Lviv. I got military training at camps of different organizations, which taught Ukrainian spirit. We were taught melee fighting and how to shoot airguns, and had firearms training at licensed shooting ranges. I was also a member of the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists. They had a military department. In the camps I learnt the truth about historical events in Ukraine, about the 1920s and the Holodomor.

– When did you come to Maidan?

– I arrived the day before Berkut attacked the students. We were lodged with some lady who lives near Khreschatyk Street. We went there and listened to the speeches from the stage. And on that particular night we wanted to stay, but we were really tired and fell asleep. And in the morning we found out that Berkut had attacked Maidan.

– And what did you decide to do?

– Everybody gathered at Mykhaylivska Square. Yuriy Lutsenko was there and had gathered people together. We wrote some posters in English with our calls to Europe. We believed we could overcome the regime of Yanukovych in such a romantic way.

We drove with AutoMmaidan through the city, calling people to come out and get involved. AutoMaidan was not yet so well-developed as an organization. Afterwards we came to the March of a Million and stayed.

I traveled home several times during this period, because there was work to do. But I tried to participate in the protests back home in Lviv. We arranged a revolutionary rally to visit Gerega’s Epicenter companies and blocked entrances to military buildings.

– Were you at Hrushevskiy Street?

– On that day we came to the protest, listened to it, and realized nothing was going to happen, so we turned around and went home. But on our way back home I read a message that riots were beginning near the stadium. So we turned back near the city of  Zhytomyr. We stayed the night at Hrushevskiy.

Thereafter I traveled back to Lviv several times.  The situation was tense – the politicians made no firm decisions, assumed no responsibility, and wanted to let the situation run its course. That is why we tried to do real work at every turn.

– Were you here when the “peaceful march” began?

– We set out for Kyiv when Berkut launched the final attack on the barricades on 18 February, and the special forces had already made it to Maidan. I was trying to organize people to go to Kyiv. We needed to act quickly, or there would no Maidan left by the time they got there.

My father and I also went. We were warned there would be roadblocks on the way. And they were there, but by the time we approached Kyiv, they had already been disarmed.

As soon as we arrived, my father and I went straight to the barricades and stayed there together. And when the sun came up we started rebuilding the barricades and carrying tires.

– Did you and your father also participate in thefighting?

– Yes, we did. Side-by-side as usual, because we were worried about one another.

– How old is your father?

– He was born in 1964, so he will be 50 this year.

– Please tell us about the Conservatory building. Did you take it over?

When the situation stabilized, we were faced with the problem of people who had nowhere to live. [That night, the Trade Unions Building, where people lived, burned–Ed.] We entered the Conservatory. We did not even have to break the windows, because the doors were open. I approached the guard and we called the building’s management. We made an agreement that we would not break anything, and that we would keep the area where paintings and valuables are kept closed and off-limits.

(It was at this moment that Dmytro Radyk, Chairman of the Conservatory Trade Union Committee, entered the room. He said he had been informed that the building would be vacated on Monday. “However, I can see that is not going to happen. We do not insist on it and have no complaints whatsoever. If you need to stay, then stay. Our students are ready to assist and clean up everything afterwards,” said Radyk.)

– You’ve already spent several months at Maidan. People from Kyiv do help, but they can at least sleep in the warm every night. What is it like to live at Maidan?

– Maidan is just a great big country. And anyway, I would like to thank all people in Kyiv: hats off to you for helping and for your insane generosity.

We arranged television here. We are trying to deliver news to people once a day–the news from Ukrayinska Pravda, by the way–and watch Hromadske TV.

– How did you happen to become a sotnyk?

– When we occupied the Conservatory building, I was approached by a doctor who proposed that we arrange a medical room. “No problem,” I said. Other people proposed that we arrange a dining room. I went along with that, too.

And then there were people who proposed that create a unit of older people who have experience and have seen a good deal in this life and who were not scared. Because there were students standing out there, we decided to organize a sotnya. People from other sotnyas were joining in. There were people from Kharkiv and Odesa. People aged 30 to 50 who have served in the military and gone to trouble spots all over the world. They offered me the leadership.

There were around 60 of us at first. We went to negotiate and announce that our sotnya was organized. We did not want to put any labels on it, because people wanted to do the job and go back home thereafter and live on.

It’s a pity in all that time we were never approached by anybody from the National Resistance Headquarters. Sometime later the guys from the UDAR Party approached us.

– Who where you negotiating with? Parubiy?

– No. We spoke with Right Sector.

– Are you a member of Right Sector?

– No, I’m not. Currently I am not a member of any political party or organization.

– Tell us about Berkut trying to set the Conservatory building on fire. Is that true? How did you deal with it?

– They tried to, because the building provides a high position from which all of Maidan can be seen. One can throw anything anywhere. Therefore, it was difficult for them to take over the building.

From there we managed to spotlight the territory where Berkut was standing. We took the spotlights, with management’s permission, and projected them at Berkut. However, they shot the spotlights out really quickly. One of our people who stood by the spotlights nearly died.

– What exactly did Berkut do to set the building on fire?

– They started throwing Molotov cocktails at the building, at the building walls. They attacked from the upper side of Globus [the shopping mall–Ed.]. We prepared water to extinguish fires in case their cocktails made it through the windows. We immediately evacuated everybody who was not actively fighting. Berkut was throwing those Molotov cocktails with no effect, because Molotov cocktails are only effective when they hit something highly flammable.

– Do you personally know how to make a Molotov cocktail?

– I did not make them. I saw women on Maidan bottling them. If you ask me whether I was throwing them as well, I would have to take responsibility and admit that I was.

– Was it scary for you then?

– To tell the truth, trivial as it may sound, no, it wasn’t. It was scary the first few times I came here, but later on the struggle united us so strongly that the fear disappeared. If you go there for the money or the positions – then you have the fear. And when you stand there for a just cause and your loved ones stand there by your side, you have no fear.

– Why did you take the stage on Friday, when the opposition announced the signing of the agreement with Yanukovych?

– It wasn’t out of ambition and it wasn’t a heroic deed. I was just boiling over. When you realize that you have to push harder.

When a glass falls, almost reaches the ground, and then suddenly someone tries to catch it right before it actually hits? We understood that this was what the opposition was doing. We realized that there was only one way, and it was to deliver an ultimatum. How could we even negotiate? The mothers of the fallen needed this kind of statement.

That night we had been listening to the speeches from the balcony of the Conservatory building, and it was clear that we had to take the stage. The guys came up to me and said, “Volodya, you are the oldest here, you will give the speech.”

When I was heading to the stage, I did not think about anything. They did not let us pass at first. But when there are 50 people walking, everyone will notice. Klitshchko saw us from the stage and waved us through.

– Did you realize that there were only one hundred of you and that it might have resulted in bloodshed again?

– I was at Maidan, I heard and saw what people think, so I understood what had to be said. I knew that everyone had reached the boiling point, but no one could express it. This is no heroic deed. The heroes are those who gave their lives for freedom in Ukraine. It happened spontaneously.

It was clear that we needed to quit dabbling in politics and carrying on negotiations with this  terrorist. We all believe that Yanukovych is indeed a terrorist.

– Did any politicians attempt to contact you or calm you down after your appearance on the stage?

– Yes, they tried contacting me. However, I do not want to repeat the conversations, and I do not want to drag anyone’s name through the mud.

– What happened on Saturday morning when the time limit given in the ultimatum expired?

– People had clearly understood the statement. It was about giving them the boost they needed. We told the politicians: “There is a wall behind you, and you cannot move it. What are you afraid of?”

We had been watching the live broadcast of the Verkhovna Rada session since early morning. Moreover, Klitshchko, who appeared before 10 a.m. and said that he would initiate the removal of Yanukovych, had supported us a little bit. It meant that the first step had been already taken.

So our people just approached the Verkhovna Rada building, and made them stay inside and do their job without running away.

– What do you think about what is currently happening in the Verkhovna Rada?

– It is a shame that the politicians have forgotten how they gained what is happening in the Verkhovna Rada now. One must deal with the consequences of the revolution. Some people still have not been released from jail. Those responsible for the murders have yet to be punished, and the new politicians are already busy dividing powers and authorities. This is not right toward the people.

– Nevertheless, we do hope that they have only got their positions in order to conduct further investigations.

– I understand this, but people want to at least hear statements; they are asking for coordinated action. When that was what we needed to hear, they were taking the stage 18 times a day and talking about a better tomorrow.

However, they neither share nor consult now that they are there. It is here where the government was formed, and decisions were supposed to be made at Maidan. More than once, they disobeyed us and started negotiating with Yanukovych. It was a huge mistake followed by enormous losses.

When they made the mistake a second time, people told them, screaming “Shame!” But they did not listen. They are not listening to the Ukrainian people now, either. Nevertheless, the Ukrainian society has been already shaped.

– How do you personally feel about the release of Yulia Tymoshenko?

– It is very good that she was released. There are a lot of questions to ask her though, including a lot of unpleasant ones. The problem with politicians is that instead of uniting people even more now, they start these talks. “We are for Yulia,” “And we are against Yulia,” one is supporting Klitschko, the other one is supporting Tyahnybok, some are for Yatsenyuk.

We have a very poorly mannered political elite, and this what people see at Maidan.

Yatsenyuk is screaming “Bullet in the forehead” from the stage, and this is what he pulls off on the second day. Tyahnybok, the Ukrainian nationalist, is someone who, frankly, should never have shaken Yanukovych ‘s hand in the first place.

There are fewer questions for Vitali Klitschko. He is a new politician, he has the Liberal Party, he made no repulsive statements from the stage.

We have been fighting against the regime. At the moment the main goal is strengthening control over Ukraine by Europe and controlling this process via the civil society.

A number of leaders, new smart young professionals, have emerged, and they have to be in the government as well, for this is a new generation. They have a completely different mindset, and do not think in stereotypes.

We need to generally change the state system, whose roots run deep. It is terribly bureaucratic and corrupt. The people who are standing at Maidan obviously do not believe that the politicians can do it, that is about it.

– Do you think that you have already won?

– No.

– And what do you consider to be victory in this case?

– We have destroyed the regime, we have won. However, now we are facing an entirely different question so that we do not need to destroy another one later. The new, fresh help which can change the system has emerged. People must realize that that they have control at all levels, from the village councils to the Verkhovna Rada.

This is how major reforms must be made. However, only people with a fresh vision can accomplish it.

– But reforms will take time. How much longer do you plan to stay at Maidan?

– I understand. As far as I know, the burning question of Maidan is the formation of some government, since the country has to be governed; we do not need anarchy here. It is necessary to have people holding positions, but these people have to be trustworthy, living up to expectations. The people’s task is to control it.

– You are saying that your sotnya includes people from Kharkiv, and from other regions. Are they watching what is currently happening in Kharkiv?

– Yes. I want to officially announce that we are planning to go there. It is currently said that everything is calm there and the police are helping the activists. Only last night we were negotiating with our lad, an older man, actually. We were ready to get in the car and go.

But then we read that the police intervened in the process so we’re staying for now.

– Volodymyr, are you already thinking about what you will do later, when Maidan is over?

– I am not interested in politics, but I am interested in what is happening in the country. Strict control over all government authorities has to be maintained.

There are so many activists. For example, Serhiy Koba of AutoMaidan. I am planning to talk to him. Maybe there will be more people. We will discuss ways in which one can influence and control the effective government. For now, civil civil society has to be shaped.

However, I am very thankful to all Kyivans, and the whole of Ukraine. Everyone contributed to this victory. I feel that each person who went to bed with his or her thoughts with Maidan has already made a contribution. First and foremost, we must thank God. There are tenets of the Ukrainian people – God, Ukraine and Liberty. We must thank God.

There are victims, but I am sure that all those guys who have died are now in heaven, watching us, waving their hands, and singing the national anthem of Ukraine with the rest of the heroes: Bandera, Shukhevych, and all the others who fought for the freedom of Ukraine.

Translators: Svitlana Skob, Katherina Smirnova

Editor: Robin Rohrback

Source: http://www.pravda.com.ua/articles/2014/02/24/7016048/