Vivica Williams, UATV correspondent: Paul and I met on the pedestrian bridge overlooking Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or Independence Square, in the center of Kyiv. This is where everything began in November 2013.
So, Paul, you have been here for fourteen years already. Why were you here during this time?
Paul Niland: I was witnessing history. Kyiv is my home city and Ukraine is my adopted home country and there were monumental events that were taking place here, and I felt it was important to stand next to the Ukrainians that are my friends and to see what was happening here, to understand what was happening here so that later in life we would be able to retell this story about what we saw and about the events that we witnessed here on Maidan.
Were you here, on Maidan, from the beginning of November 2013?
PN: I was, my office is quite close to Maidan and as I saw announcements that things were happening here and people were gathering, which started on the 21st of November in 2013, I felt the need to come and look and to experience this for myself, and at the time, the gatherings were relatively small. There were few hundred people, and it grew over the space of a week, maybe to a few thousand people. And over the 93 days of Maidan — it started as we said on the 21st of November, and ran through to the 22nd of February, which was when Yanukovych finally fled — over those 93 days, I was here on Maidan for 89 of them, not around the clock, I wasn’t here 24/7, but I visited this place basically every day.
In the early days of Euromaidan, it was a few kids that were sitting around barrels with burning wood, and they were playing songs on guitars and they were singing, there was a small stage that was set up. But the mood changed very significantly on the 30th of November when Yanukovych sent the Berkut riot police in to beat a bunch of kids on the steps of the monument that’s right beneath us.
One million people turned out on the 1st of December to come to the square and to protest the beatings of those kids. I mean, they were youngsters, they were students, and what happened to them on the night of the 30th was simply unacceptable and the people of Kyiv and Ukraine came out and said: “No, this is not going to happen”. It was every single Sunday that there were masses and masses of people here on this square and filling this square.
February 18th, 19th, and the 20th were the darkest days of the Revolution. Instytutska street was central to the violence.
PN: Instytutska on the 18th was a battleground. On the night of 18th, I was sitting next to the barricades, and the barricades were on fire at the time and the Berkut was just across them. There was a fountain right there, and I remember sitting there and to my left was an old gentleman, who was maybe 70 years old. He just sat there with a big piece of wood on his lap, prepared to what was coming. To my right, there was a couple, husband and wife, probably around my age, around 40-45, something like that, and they were both also just standing there, very determined. And when the fight came they’d be ready for it. And on the stroke of eight o’clock, this whole hillside that was here was all covered with riot police, and all you could see was the black helmets of the riot police. And on the stroke of eight o’clock exactly they moved…
The 20th is the most famous day because that’s the day of the sniper shootings here on the Instytutska Street, right below us.
The 21st was a day of great sadness, the 21st was a day again when Maidan was full and it was full of people who were mourning.
Paul and I walked up Heroes of the Heavenly Hundred and talked about the people who gave their lives.
PN: As we’re walking up through here, this is one of the earliest memorials that was put in place for those who died over the period of the revolution.One of the narratives that
One of the narratives that comes out of Russian propaganda and the way that Russia looks at this is that these people were extremists or there was some kind of element of that. None of these people were extremists! This gentleman here was from Georgia. And again, he’s 54 years old. And this chap here, a 22-year-old student is from Donetsk. There were lots of people from eastern Ukraine, who were here, as was well as from western Ukraine. But, actually, the vast majority of people on Maidan were people from Kyiv.And this lady here from Khmelnytskyi, Liudmyla Sheremeta was 75 years old. She was a pensioner and she died here probably, actually, she was the person that died at the entrance to the metro on the top of Instytutska. What happened on the 18th of February was that public transport was all shut down in order to complicate people coming to Maidan. And during the battles here on the 18th of February here, on this street, that lady was running away from the baton-wielding charging riot police and she tried to duck into the metro station to get out of the way and the doors were locked and she was killed right there.
And this lady here from Khmelnytskyi, Liudmyla Sheremeta, was 75 years old. She was a pensioner and she died here probably, actually, she was the person that died at the entrance to the metro on the top of Instytutska. What happened on the 18th of February was that public transport was all shut down in order to complicate people coming to Maidan. And during the battles here on the 18th of February here, on this street, that lady was running away from the baton-wielding charging riot police and she tried to duck into the metro station to get out of the way and the doors were locked and she was killed right there.
Paul’s son Sasha met us at the memorial. He was no stranger to the history of the revolution. Although he’s only 13, he has his own memories. When he was 10, his father took him to one of the Sunday gatherings during the start of Euromaidan revolution.
Sasha Niland: I remember the barricades and all of the big serious guys with all the guns and everything keeping track of who enters and leaves the Maidan, which was a pretty big thing for me because I was pretty small.
Paul and Sasha spent many of the peaceful early days walking around the centre. It was important, says Paul, for his son to be a witness.
Paul Niland: One of the great things about this place now — it was very emotional after the revolution because there was so much loss of life here, it was very difficult to come back to this place — but, actually, nowadays when we see these memorials that exist to the people that died on this street, it’s actually uplifting. It says that their memory is respected and that their sacrifice is not forgotten.