War will never cease to exist.
Extreme aggression and death undermine the basic paradigm of safety and impose change on the scale of values. One can’t simply shake it off and think there will be better times when the tanks are gone and the dead are buried. What remains are the people, with scarred souls, and painful memories.
Even after its death, war lives on. Only it moves from the battle field into people’s homes. The demons come in the disguise of psychological traumas, depressions and nightmares. Relief may only come with time and coming to terms with the fact that nothing will ever be the same.
Thus tens of thousands of personal stories continue, though seemingly trivial, and for the mainstream media uninteresting. The very ones that are essential to my own understanding of the world.
And that is what made me go to Maidan.
From November till February, a war raged in Kiev. Hundreds of people died, thousands were injured, maimed or disappeared without a trace. Then there were the tens of thousands who witnessed the savage brutality and brought this experience back home with them, burned deep into their memories.
With the help of psychologists and social workers I looked for such stories all over Kiev, in darkenned flats, filled with pain and bitterness. These are the stories of ordinary people.
Soon after my return to Prague, a much harsher, conventional war broke out in Ukraine. A war which has already affected hundreds of thousands of people. A two hour flight from my home takes me there. For many of the people I know it is happenning on their doorsteps, this is why Ukraine is my concern.
The number of dead, and injured will grow. Like the scars on the soul, nightmares, depressions and their mini, personal stories will need to be expressed and told. As the Russian proverb says “it is easier to release the evil than to create angels”.
Evil is being released. And the angels? Still out of sight.
“Dom profsouzov”. Maidan’s memento mori. The exact number of casualties from the fire is still unknown.
On Feb 20, Vasil Galamay was hit in the hop by a sniper’s bullet. He lost three litres of blood as a result of the bullet damaging his bladder and was rushed to a medical facility in the Czech Republic in critical condition.
X-ray image of the bullet which caused severe damage to 27-year-old Vasil Galamay.
Dima Lyamin was one of the clerics who provide spiritual help to people suffering from psychological trauma at the Maidan demonstrations.
The bloody conflicts in Maidan did not only result in dead or wounded people, but also affected many with psychological trauma. These people who have since been seeking psychological, andt also spiritual, help.
Denis Koval received several brutal beatings from “Titushkas”(instigators). His hands have deep cuts, he suffered traumatic brain injury and a bullet shattered his kneecap. “I feel like a hundred years old, dreadfully tired. I took so much beating, but the scars it left on my soul are the worst.”
In February the demonstrations in Maidan were dispersed by snipers shooting at the people in the square. Later, in June, war came to the east of Ukraine.
Roman Kyshuk 33, still a Maidan militiaman, has no idea how to get his life back on track. He suffers from a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“Right on this very balcony we could hear every single shot fired. Tears were running down my cheeks, I was shaking all over. Even today I still cannot bear to look at any photographs or videos from Maidan”, says Ivan Grebenjuk, who lives near Kiev’s downtown, fighting to keep supress the memories of those days.
Volodymyr Melnichuk (40) was shot in Maidan by a sniper at the very moment when he was on the phone with his mother Nadhezda, telling her that he had just dropped by to bring the protesters some food and warm clothes.
One of the last pictures taken by Volodimir, amateur photographer, at Maidan. The Berkut unit member was close to pulling the trigger.
The spot marking the wall where the bullet fired at Volodymyr ended. He died here, at Zhovtnevyi Palats.
Although Maxim Skripnikov has been missing since 2013, his mother has been given information that he was working as a volunteer in the tents on Maidan on several occasions. Since the violent conflict on the streets has calmed down, she’s had no news of him whatsoever. “Maidan gave me hope and took it away from me at the same time. It’s as if I were dead.”
Ever since her son disappeared Tatiana stays alone. She still hopes he’ll show up one day. She seems exhausted.
Olga Yakimakha and her mother Olesia. From November 2013 she worked as a volunteer in Maidan. Her friend Ivan Tarsjuk was shot dead by a sniper on February 20. “I spent several days and nights crying, and I still can’t get over it. I’m hurting really bad.”
Various forms of psychological traumas found their way to the other side of the barricade. “Lot of my colleagues broke down. We are just regular police officers, but they told us to go and stand between the Berkut and the demonstrators. A friend of mine caught fire from a Molotov cocktail and he can’t even light his own cigarette now,” says a 28-year old police officer.
The Maidan barricades are still up. According to psychologists, a great deal of people are unable to find their way from Maidan back to normal life.