Ukraine: Freedom or Death

Loki, the Belarussian who was killed on Hrushevskoho Street, always carried a Ukrainian flag in his pocket. Armenian Serhiy Nihoyan “never asked for anything” and was constantly on duty on the Maidan.

The Unsilenceable Belfry– this is the title of the poem by Armenian poet, Paruyr Sevak. “As never before and as nowhere else was the time for sorrowful wailing. Oh, Vardapet, with sorrowful lips, the people in danger, whose souls had been burned, prayed and wept with black mourning: “God, give us salvation…” – these are the words that Serhiy Nihoyan from the village of Bereznuvativka of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast wrote on his social network page on December 30. By then, the 20 year-old had already been on the Maidan for over two weeks.

He was the only son of an Armenian family, which came to Ukraine to escape the war in Nagorno Karabakh. Modest, even shy, ready to suffer all inconveniences so as not to bother anyone, Serhiy was a guard at the Maidan. “I took tea out to the square at night. It was cold. He stood near the Lechitic Gates, in contrast to many other guards, he did not come closer; he never left his post. I came up to him myself, he took the tea and gratefully kissed my hand. I asked him his name – even flirting a little. We became acquainted”, remembers Miriam Drahina, a girl who met the young man at the revolution. “During the week, I noticed that he didn’t have any gloves. I brought him some, saying: why didn’t you say anything? He just shrugged his shoulders and smiled. He never asked for anything. Every night, he faithfully stood guard. Every single night. I think that a lot of people remember him. He was such a vivid presence, as if not from here. I thought that he was an idealist from Zakarpattya, for example. I asked him about this. It emerged that he was from Dnipropetrovsk. A nice, honest and brave man. He was killed by a sniper’s bullet. I have only just realised that he was the one who was shot. Serhiy Nihoyan, thank you for everything. I will always remember you”.

“Armenian film director Parajanov once shot a film that became a symbol for Ukrainians. Today, Armenian Nihoyan gave his life, which has become a symbol of Ukraine,” wrote singer Svyatoslav Vakarchuk.

“They say that only people from Halychyna are standing on Hrushevskoho Street. Serhiy Nihoyan was from Dnipropetrovsk. They say that the people on Hrushevskoho Street are Nazis, who stand by the creed that Ukraine is for Ukrainians. Serhiy Nihoyan was Armenian. Nothing ruins the myths of propaganda better than a sniper’s bullet,” Facebook users lamented.

Today, portraits of Serhiy Nihoyan hang on the 32nd barricade. His memory was honoured by Ukrainians in both Lviv and the Crimea. This will not bring him back to life. But the Maidan is still standing – the Maidan, to which the Ukrainian-speaking resident of Dnipropetrovsk came without letting his parents know beforehand, and for which he gave his life. Skirmishes continue on Hrushevskoho Street – skirmishes, that are becoming ever-more reminiscent of a truly symbolic and heroic battle at Kruty, even if not decisive for the course of history.

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Another life given for Ukraine was that of Mykhailo Zhyznevsky from Belarus. He was a member of the Ukrainian National Self-Defence (UNSO) from Bila Tserkva, near Kyiv.

Loki was shot dead on Hryushevskoho Street at about 10:30 on January 22. He stood on the Maidan for a long time. In his pocket, his friends recall, the Belarussian always carried a blue and yellow Ukrainian flag. He would ask people from different cities and countries to sign it. He thought that he would have it as a reminder- a memory… Now, this flag will remind people of Mykhailo himself.

“You can say a lot of good things about him as a person,” Vitaliy Lukyanchuk, his friend, tells The Ukrainian Week. “He was purpose-oriented and self-confident. He always maintained patriotic views. He loved extreme sports … He was a wonderful person, a true patriot of Ukraine.”

On January 26, Loki would have been 26 years old. “Good times are coming, brother,” this is the status that will forever remain on his social network page.

The Interior Ministry has never admitted to the use of firearms by Berkut riot police. Meanwhile, doctors have confirmed that they found a 7.62 mm bullet from a Degtyaryov sniper rifle in Serhiy Nihoyan’s body. A 9 mm calibre bullet was found in Loki’s body, probably from a Makarov pistol.

According to information in the mass media, two bodies with signs of torture were found in a forest in the Boryspil Raion of Kyiv Oblast, from which kidnapped activist Ihor Lutsenko dragged himself. The heads of the deceased were wrapped in scotch tape. One of the murdered victims, seismologist Yuriy Verbytskiy, was born in 1963 and resided in Lviv. He was an activist of the EuroMaidan.

There has not yet been any official confirmation of the announcement that the body of another young man has been found, whom Berkut fighters had allegedly beaten severely on the colonnade of the Dynamo Stadium, after which he was either pushed off, or jumped off himself, being unable to endure the torture. According to some data, the protestor, whose name is as yet unknown, died. According to others – he’s alive and currently in intensive care.

There is also unconfirmed information that several other people were shot to death on Hrushevskoho Street. Doctors told journalists about these men.

Berkut could also have killed a protester, who was heading towards the ranks of fighters with a white flag on the night of January 20-21. “I was watching Espresso TV last night. Someone with a white flag came up to them. The internal forces made way for him to pass through (the TV station’s camera was trained on him). As soon as he passed the ranks of the internal forces, seven or eight Berkut officers flew at him and started shoving him around. Later, as he lay motionless on the ground, they finished him off with their feet. A riot police soldier then came up and shot him three times with a non-lethal gun at point-blank range. You could see the body lying on the ground jerk from each shot. It made even me, a person who has gone through military warfare, feel sick,” wrote one of the people who was watching live coverage at that time.

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Berkut has not only resorted to murder and shooting at journalists – the most inconvenient witnesses to their reprisals, but also to the beating of medical personnel. The first-aid post on Hrushevskoho Street, which treated hundreds of injured and even saw dead people over the course of three days, was completely destroyed. However, doctors gathered near its broken windows shortly, smoking nervously. They treated fresh, new wounds just about every 15 minutes.

Blood seeping through their bandages, protesters with bandaged heads and legs were returning to the barricades. There was thick red-black smoke between the ranks of the people and the sea of black helmets. This was not the first day on which car tyres were burning – the smoke could be seen on the left bank of the Dnipro. The rhythmic beating of sticks against the metal of railings and shields could be heard far away from the Maidan. The sound of explosions could be heard, too.

The confrontation continued around the clock. At dawn on January 23, masked young people hung a huge national flag on the fence near the library on Hrushevskoho Street – this is where the newly-established first-aid post had been located. “Freedom”, is written on the yellow part. “Or death” is not added, although there is plenty of room for it – there is no need to write it; everyone knows this anyway.


Freedom or Death – Politics – The Ukrainian Week.

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