The Transition…

Chapter 5: 

Ukraine has a redesigned their landscape in the last 6 years.  Not just in the east, but all of Ukraine.  What has happened in southern and eastern Ukraine has impacted all of Ukraine.  I would parallel it to the metamorphosis of a butterfly backwards.  Ukraine was a beautiful country; lovely lush landscape, flourishing cities; much like a butterfly with their beautiful array of colors, Ukraine was in full blossom mode, with upward thinking for a positive future.   And then, like someone broadsided them with a 2×4, Valdmir Putin sent in an army of men to siege Crimea.  Ukrainians caught off guard by the unexpected invasion, most were scampering out of the area, not knowing they probably would not be able to return.  The Ukrainian military was even more caught off guard that their ‘brothers, cousins, and other forefathers’ were now attacking them.   Shocked and bewildered, they withdrew into their cocoon and ran to the mainland of Ukraine for ‘back up’.  Little did anyone know what was happening, or what the future looked like for Ukraine.  A well plotted take over was in place, and the unstable leaderless country didn’t have a good response plan in place.  Ukraine scrambled to pull in place a military to fight this Goliath (Russia); but on every turn, they seemed to be out numbered, and worse yet, out gunned.   They were in a ‘fight or flight’ mode, and many just left Ukraine, instead of being killed. 

After Russia took over Crimea, wreaking havoc on the locals.  Taking over banks, businesses, schools, demanding people pay large ‘taxes’,  change their passports or desert their homes, land, and belongings.  People who could leave, would leave, others could not leave, some due to physical issues, some due to financial reasons, some refused to leave, as an act of resistance.  MANY were killed, and/or jailed.  Many just disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again.  The gypsy population of over 60,000 was cast out to the wilderness, living in tents, as nomads.  No running water, no proper shelter, of course no electricity or restroom facilities, Russia didn’t care, they wanted them ‘out’, and out they were. Those who rebuked or tried to fight back may be shot on the street, or just vanish, never to be seen again. But Russia wasn’t done yet, seems they next set their sights on eastern Ukraine, starting with attacking regions closest to their border, Lughansk, and Donetsk Oblast.  Both beautiful lush, thriving cities, they carefully and calculatingly took the territory.  Invading government offices, they basically gave city officials one day notice to vacate the premises.  Many officials just left in the night, leaving only the towns people to wake up to new people in charge.   With those ‘new people’ having guns.  It was overwhelmingly unfathomable to see men with machine guns walking on the streets, knowing some had killed innocent civilians; many people who were shocked by their invasion, stood up to the RU army.  Some resisters were thrown from building rooftops; some disappeared and later found on the river banks with their throat slit; and still many disappeared, never to be found at all.  ‘Locals’ were numb to what was happening, bewildered by the aggressive attitude, questioning ‘what’, and ‘why’ this was happening to their beautiful Ukraine?   Everything was very peaceful, even during the Maiden days and the ousting of Victor Yanukovych , the former president of Ukraine.  Seems that many people didn’t like his stand against joining the EU/NATO; as that would bring among some things, homosexuals to Ukraine; whereas really what it would bring is a more liberal trade agreement with other NATO nations, military assistance, if they were ever attacked by a non NATO country; and it would allow for more progressive thinking people to express that via business, arts, talents, trade with more nations.   Little did anyone know the connection that Yanukovych had with Putin, and these ideas that the people of Ukraine wanted, were not aligned with Yanukovych and Putins ‘new russia’ plan.    November 2013 the Ukrainian people revolted protesting in the streets of the capital, Kyiv, where the Yanukovych police was unleashed on the protesters.  Day and day people gathered to protest what they described as ‘government corruption’  Yanukovych was not prepared for the backlash of the people, thinking that they would just agree to whatever he decided.  In late November, 2013 the government forces tried to disperse the group, which inturn increased the group.  Protestors and police continued to clash, and riot police were called in to disperse the massive crowds of angry civilians.  Riot police opened fire on the protesters, killing 100 people in Maidan.  Today in Kyiv, there stands a memorial to the men and women who were killed protesting the rights of the people to make a choice about joining the EU or not.  Yanukovych could see that he needed to ‘get out or town’, and with the help of his friend, V. Putin,, Yanukovych fled Ukraine to Russia, seeking asylum from his crimes.  Putin welcomed him and it was clear that the 2 of them conspired the events of Maiden, and the subsequent invasion of Crimea.    Putin sent his ‘unmarked’, ‘little green men’ to invade Crimea.  The local people were totally confused, with the Ukrainian military taken off guard to the invasion.  The military base in Crimea was surrounded by the ‘little green men’ in unmarked uniforms, and told to surrender, join them, or immediately leave.  Almost all decided to flee with their families.  Later when the towns people realized what was happening, some tried to show resistance to the invasion.  Shots were fired, people threatened, and even some just disappeared.  People fled in droves, with no idea of what, or the bigger question, ‘why’ was this happening at all.   We sat in Donetsk oblast thinking that things would be sorted out and this would all ‘blow over’.  Nothing was discussed, but the invasion grew and more and more of Crimea was taken over, but by who….’who’ were these men in unmarked uniforms?  No one would take responsibility for this.  Finally it was clear that this was a not just a disgruntled civilian group of people, but an organized invasion from Ukrainian alli Russia.  Confused and bewildered, the people didn’t know how to react, as the RU military seized banks, official government buildings, schools, and the military base.    As more and more ‘little green men’, as they were so referred to by the press, invaded the Crimean territory, more and more people fled the area.  

The inland aggression continued, and soon shooting began in Lughansk region close to the Russian border.  Slowly, but calculatingly, they moved to Donetsk oblast, seizing parts of the city, and trying to take the airport, with a strong resistance by Ukrainian backed military forces.

By March 2014, I was back in Eastern Ukraine, and there was a rally downtown, as our mayor was holding ‘behind close doors’ meetings with local politicians, the police chief, and some businessmen, where it was apparent that the mayor was siding with the ill operated group of ‘separatists’ (Donetsk People’s Republic) that threatened to invade Dzerzhinsk.  People rallied in the streets, though no one knew for sure ‘who’ was ‘for’ ‘whom’… One had to be careful, as if you spoke out too much, you may just disappear, which is what happened to the police chief of neighboring Ghorlovka.  Additionally, one man trying to stop the removal of the UA flag from the police headquarters in Ghorlovka was thrown from the 3-story building.   People were cautious, at best, as to ‘who’ they talked to, and what they said.  It reminded me much of what you read about during the time of rounding up the Jews in Germany, and how Hitler was able to convince people to turn on their neighbors, shopkeepers, friends.  ‘This’ was the climate.  One truly didn’t know who their neighbor was ‘for or against’.    After 16 years of working to establish relationships with hundreds of people, it came down to fear, and people not knowing what to do with that fear.  Fear of the ‘unknown’, fear of being hurt, fear to speak out, fear to take a ‘side’, fear of being hurt of worse yet killed…so people continued to act, ‘business as usual’, not talking to anyone about their thoughts on the situation soon to surround them. 

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