Monday, February 23, 2015

Heroes of the Euromaidan Revolution are Leaving Ukraine | VICE | United States

One year ago, Dasha Oratovska and Sasha Zakhovaieva fled from Kyiv's Independence Square as riot police launched an assault on anti-government protesters, firing flares and rubber bullets into the crowd. Sasha lost consciousness and was dragged by a friend to a makeshift hospital in the nearby Trade Unions building. The building soon caught fire, forcing doctors and wounded protesters to evacuate. As the Euromaidan Revolution reached its bloody crescendo, Dasha found Sasha sitting, dazed, on St. Sophia Square, a short distance from Independence Square.

Six months later, Dasha left Ukraine, likely permanently. Sasha remains in Kyiv but has begun formulating contingency plans should the violence in the country's east creep west.

They are not alone. Ukrainians are fleeing the country in record numbers: since February 2014, 600,000 Ukrainians have sought asylum or other forms of legal stay in neighboring countries, and thousands more have moved to the U.S. and the European Union. Others have fled illegally: Poland reported a 100 percent increase in the number of detentions of illegal Ukrainian immigrants last year.

But the emigrants are not only asylum seekers. They are the Western-leaning intelligentsia, the professional classes with relatives abroad, and the students of the Maidan who first organized protests against former President Viktor Yanukovych's kleptocratic and violent government in November 2013.

Since the overthrow of Yanukovych last year, a Russian-backed secessionist movement has claimed the lives of 5,400 people and injured 13,000. The recent ceasefire has done little to quell the violence. Inflation is skyrocketing, hitting 25 percent in December. The hryvnia, Ukraine's national currency, has lost two-thirds of its value against the dollar over the past year. This devaluation has crushed Ukrainians' purchasing power, particularly for western goods, and severely limited their mobility: the average monthly Ukrainian salary was $384 in January 2014. By December 2014, it was down to just $261.

There is little reason to stay; the brain drain from Ukraine is accelerating.

Compassionate, diminutive, and curly-haired, Dasha got her undergraduate degree at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Ukraine's most prestigious university. Trained as a social worker, she was an active volunteer while living in Ukraine, working regularly with drug addicts and patients at a psychiatric hospital in Kyiv before leaving for the Netherlands last summer. Dasha says she and other recent émigrés are conflicted about whether or not to return. "Many will not go back," she predicts. Spending months protesting for an unfulfilled vision was taxing: "I can't say that I want to return home soon. As I was standing on the Maidan last winter, I realized how difficult it would be for me to stay in Kyiv."

Complete story at - Heroes of the Euromaidan Revolution are Leaving Ukraine | VICE | United States

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