A fight for a better society

“POVIJEST SLOBODE JEST POVIJEST OTPORA” *

 

Photo from Google Images.

Young people across Western Europe witness and sometimes participate in various meaningful, but all too often meaningless protests and demonstrations. There are so many different causes, dubious goals and motives that such public demonstrations only cause apathy in many observers. On the contrary, in the eastern part of the continent, only two years ago, people gathered in a massive movement that really wanted to influence the course of history. Protesting for their ideals, they faced repression, whose existence is for a Western European, occupied with his everyday life, easy to forget, and perhaps that is the reason why there was such a lack of global solidarity with their struggle.

Gathering on Maidan

            In November 2013, the contemporary Ukrainian government, headed by president Viktor Janukovič, made a decision to stop the negotiations with the European Union and decided to bring Ukraine politically and strategically even closer to Russia. With these negotiations, Ukraine was on its way to becoming a part of the European Union’s free trade zone, and the Ukrainian people saw that as a way of turning their country towards Europe and out of Russian influence, with which Ukraine tried to cope during a big part of its history. The end of the negotiations and gathering of several hundred thousand people on Maidan, the main square in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, for peaceful demonstrations and an attempt in persuading their government to sign the agreement marks the beginning of the documentary Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom. First it started with young people, students and intellectuals, because they believed that if Ukraine became a part of the European Union, then their future would be far from a corrupted and disordered society in which they were living. Following those first days of demonstrations, we see that, besides students and intellectuals, many others, working class people, the elderly, mothers and fathers, all came because they believed not only that the European Union would guarantee them a better life, even more they believed that Ukraine belongs to Europe, and not with Russia. As the demonstrations did not stop, the Ukrainian government decided to silence them by sending Berkut, special police units and demonstrators were chased away from Maidan.

Police brutality

            Faced with terrifying and ruthless police repression, there came the moment for the demonstrators to question the strength of their beliefs and determination with which they will stand behind those beliefs. As we can see in the movie, determination to raise their voice for the right thing was strong enough and demonstrations on Maidan, in spite of intimidations, did not stop. It was pointed out many times during the documentary that those were no longer pro-European demonstrations; people were now demonstrating for freedom, for a life without repression, without fear. Something that started as a peaceful gathering in November 2013, continued until the February 2014, and no one could assume what would be the price of freedom for Ukrainians. Special police forces, Berkut, and the titushky, mercenary agents that supported the police forces, were merciless in beatings, kidnaping and even shooting at the demonstrators. Finally, by the end of these events, there were 120 killed and around 2000 injured. Even if they had to pay for it with their own lives, the demonstrators would not give up; rather they saw it as betraying those who already gave their lives for freedom. The movie ends with a kind of victory for the demonstrators – Janukovič retreating from the presidential position and him fleeing the country, although unrest in Ukraine did not stop there. After Janukovič retreated and Porošenko became new president, Ukraine entered a real war, with separatist taking over parts of the Ukrainian territory with Russian help, a war to which we still cannot see an ending.

Courage of the protesters

            Although the movie does not give the context to other events at the time of the demonstrations, such as the events in the Ukrainian politics, or the events in the rest of the country and reactions from the rest of the world, it was filmed amazingly, and it keeps the spectator high-strung like a real action movie. It also makes the spectator feel sorry for the tragedies of the demonstrators, but also astonished by their bravery and perseverance. Personal stories of some of the demonstrators that we get to witness watching the movie are very powerful and emotional scenes that remind us that we are looking at real people who only two years ago fought for something that most of us take for granted – for freedom of speech, of gathering, of choice. Such is the story of the 12-year old boy who proudly speaks of helping with the logistic organization and even shooting at the police forces with his sling, or the two brothers talking with their mother on the phone while the battle goes on around them. Scenes like these can serve as a stimulus for persistence in the fight for social changes.

Fight for freedom

            Events in Ukraine remind us once more that a fight for a better society is not a single act, a protest, not even a successful replacement of a president. A fight for a better society is hard work that we must do every single day. It means being capable of putting your country’s good before your own comfort, standing together against the regime which tries to divide and control people. History has showed us many times that such a fight, a fight for freedom, is not only worth fighting, it is necessary because, in words of Joseph Ratzinger, “where the law is being trampled, where injustice takes power, peace is endangered…therefore, commitment to peace is in the first place commitment for the law that guarantees justice to the individual and the whole community.” **

*   Quote by Woodrow Wilson.
** Joseph Ratzinger, Europa. Njezini sadašnji i budući temelji. Verbum, 2013, pg. 84.

Ukraine 2

Photo from Google Images.

Mladi u zapadnoj Europi svakodnevno svjedoče, a i sudjeluju u raznim smislenim, ali često i besmislenim prosvjedima i demonstracijama. Toliko je različitih povoda, dvojbenih ciljeva i motiva da u mnogima naprosto takve javne demonstracije izazivaju apatiju. Nasuprot tome, na istočnome kraju kontinenta, prije samo dvije godine ljudi su se okupili u masovnome pokretu koji je zaista htio mijenjati tijek povijesti. Prosvjedujući za svoje ideale, suočili su se s represijom, čije postojanje zapadnoeuropski čovjek, okupiran svojom svakodnevicom, lako izgubi iz vida pa je možda baš zato uzmanjkalo globalne solidarnosti prema njihovim naporima.

Okupljanje na Maidanu

U studenome 2013. godine ukrajinski politički vrh, na čelu s tadašnjim predsjednikom Viktorom Janukovičem, donio je odluku o prekidu pregovora s Europskom unijom i odlučio Ukrajinu politički i strateški još više približiti Rusiji. Naime, Ukrajina je tim pregovorima trebala postati dio zone slobodne trgovine Europske unije, što je ukrajinski narod gledao kao na konačno okretanje njihove zemlje zapadu i odmicanje od ruskoga utjecaja s kojim se ta zemlja kroz velik dio svoje povijesti borila. Prekidom pregovora i okupljanjem nekoliko stotina tisuća ljudi na glavnom kijevskom trgu Majdanu, kako bi mirnim prosvjedima potaknuli vladu na nastavak pregovora, započinje dokumentarni film Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom. Nositelji prosvjeda bili su ponajprije mladi ljudi, studenti i intelektualci, koji su u približavanju Ukrajine Europskoj uniji vidjeli budućnost koja će biti daleko od korumpiranoga i neuređenog društva u kakvom su tada živjeli. Prateći kroz film kako su tekli prvi dani proeuropskih prosvjeda, dobivamo uvid kako je sve više ljudi, običnih radnika, umirovljenika, majki i očeva došlo na prosvjed jer su vjerovali ne samo kako će im Europska unija osigurati bolji život, već da je Ukrajini mjesto u Europi, a ne uz Rusiju. Kako prosvjedi nisu jenjavali, ukrajinska vlast odlučila ih je ugušiti slanjem Berkuta, specijalne policije, na prosvjednike koji su naposljetku zaista rastjerani s Majdana.

Policijska brutalnost

Suočeni sa strašnom i nemilosrdnom policijskom represijom, za prosvjednike je došao trenutak kada su trebali propitati snagu svojih uvjerenja i odlučnost da u njima ustraju. Kako vidimo u filmu, uvjerenje prosvjednika da dižu svoj glas za pravu stvar bilo je snažno i prosvjedi na Majdanu, unatoč prvotnom zastrašivanju, nisu prestali. U više se navrata u filmu naglašava kako to više nisu bili proeuropski prosvjedi, to su sada postali prosvjedi za slobodu, za život bez represije, bez straha. Nešto što je počelo kao mirna demonstracija u studenome 2013. godine, nastavilo se sve do veljače 2014. godine, a nitko nije mogao pretpostaviti kolika će biti cijena slobode za ukrajinski narod. Policijske snage, Berkut, i plaćenici, tituški, nemilosrdno su tukli, otimali pa čak i pucali na prosvjednike te je naposljetku bilo 120 poginulih i oko 2000 ranjenih. Čak ni pod cijenu vlastita života prosvjednici nisu htjeli posustati, a na odustajanje su gledali kao na izdaju onih koji su svojim životom već platili cijenu slobode. Film završava odstupanjem s vlasti predsjednika Janukoviča i njegovim bijegom iz države te svojevrsnom pobjedom prosvjednika, iako nemiri u Ukrajini nisu prestali tim događajem. Nakon smjene Janukoviča i izbora Porošenka na mjesto predsjednika, Ukrajina je ušla u pravi rat te se još ne vidi rješenje situacije u kojoj su separatisti, potpomognuti Rusijom, praktički otcijepili dijelove teritorija od ukrajinske države.

Hrabrost prosvjednika

Iako film ne daje nikakav kontekst unutar kojega se događaju demonstracije, ne vidimo što se događa u ukrajinskoj politici tijekom tih mjeseci, ne vidimo što se događa u ostatku Ukrajine niti kakve su reakcije ostatka svijeta na ove događaje, što je mali nedostatak, film je izvrsno sniman i montiran, dokumentarac koji gledatelja drži napetim poput akcijskog filma. Kod gledatelja izaziva sažaljenje pred tragedijama prosvjednika, ali i divljenje njihovoj hrabrosti i upornosti. Osobne priče koje pojedini prosvjednici donose u filmu, primjerice dječak od 12 godina koji s ponosom govori kako je pomagao u logističkoj organizaciji prosvjeda pa čak i nasilne policijske snage gađao praćkom ili razgovor dvojice mladića s majkom preko mobitela dok oko njih traje borba spadaju među snažnije emotivne scene koje nas podsjećaju da se radi o ljudima od krvi i mesa koji su se u nedavnoj prošlosti, prije samo dvije godine, morali boriti za nešto što mi sami često uzimamo zdravo za gotovo – za slobodu govora, okupljanja, izbora. Takve i mnoge slične scene u filmu mogu poslužiti kao inspiracija za upornost u borbi za društvene promjene.

Borba za slobodu

Događaji u Ukrajini još jednom nas podsjećaju kako borba za bolje društvo nije jednokratan čin, prosvjed, pa čak ni uspješna smjena nekoga visokog političara. Borba za bolje društvo svakodnevni je naporni rad. To znači biti sposoban staviti dobro svoje zemlje ispred vlastite udobnosti, željeti se zajedničkim snagama suprotstaviti režimu koji nastoji ljude podijeliti i kontrolirati. Povijest nam je mnogo puta pokazala da se takva borba, borba za slobodu isplati. Ali, ne samo da se isplati, ona je i nužna jer, riječima Josepha Ratzingera, „tamo gdje pravo biva pogaženo, gdje nepravda uzme moć, mir je ugrožen…dakle, zauzimanje za mir je prije svega zauzimanje za oblik prava koji jamči pravednost pojedincu i čitavoj zajednici.“ **

*   Citat Woodrowa Wilsona
** Joseph Ratzinger, Europa. Njezini sadašnji i budući temelji. Verbum, 2013, str. 84.

Written by Anita Dekanić, WYA Croatia member.