On 19 January 2016, Ukrainians all over the country plunged in ice-cold water to celebrate Epiphany, as they always do. They call it “Vodokhreshcha,” or baptism by water. But Euromaidan protesters remember this day as “Vohnekhreshcha” – baptism by fire. It was on this day that in 2014 the protesters were “baptized” by ice-cold water canons and fire, taking the situation into their hands instead of silently fuming about politicians that didn’t lead. Euromaidan protesters experienced their own, special Epiphany.
Read about Vodokhreshcha: Celebrating Vodokhreshchа (Epiphany), the last of the Ukrainian Christmas and New Year cycle
Iconic footage and photographs of Kyiv photographer Sergii Morhunov allow reliving those moments again.
Two years ago, 19 January 2014, Ukraine’s Euromaidan revolution entered the phase of its violent resistance, which ultimately led to the ouster of the president-dictator Yanukovych. Several months of peaceful protests did not achieve much; on the contrary, the situation became worse when the “dictatorship laws” that would make protesting impossible in the first place were adopted on the whim of then-President Yanukovych on January 16. Frustration was mounting, and first of all it was directed at the official leaders of the protests, the oppositional politicians Yatseniuk, Klitschko, and Tyahnybok, who did not seem to have a plan nor to be ready for decisive actions. At the traditional Sunday assembly at Maidan, the Viche, the people gathered on the square demanded for the “trinity” of leaders to name who is the leader among them. Yatseniuk answered that it is the Ukrainian people that are the leader. On the very same day the people at Maidan took the initiative into their hands and marched on the Parliament building, where they ran into the Berkut riot police who was blocking vul. Hrushevskoho.
A recollection of those days by a participant: The day Euromaidan turned violent, one year after
The activists attempted to march through and were fended off with tear gas, sound and light grenades and even water canons, even though the water of the air that day was -8°C. So the protesters responded with stones and Molotov cocktails. Vul.Hrushevskoho turned into an ice rink, on which trucks and Berkut buses burned.
Later, the protesters would discover their secret weapon – burning tires that created a smoke screen concealing the protesters from water canons, grenades, and, later, gunshots of the Berkut police.