Kyiv 2014

My trip to a post-revolutionary Ukraine

A girl on the Maidan with Euromaidan (and Hello Kitty) paraphernalia, the Independence Monument behind her

I had a great time photographing Kyiv, from Euromaidan to Peizazhna Alley and from Kyiv Pechersk Lavra to the Open-Air Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Life. But I think this photograph is my favorite, encapsulating the hope, the tragedy, and the uncertainty of Ukraine. (It is also reminiscent of photos published in 2015 as the poster for the acclaimed Euromaidan documentary Winter on Fire and an excellent article interviewing Ukrainians nationwide on their Ukrainian identity and viewpoints post-Maidan.)

At its center is a colorful young girl, all smiles, with a Ukrainian flag waving in one hand and a Hello Kitty handbag in the other, symbolic of a 21st century combination of patriotism and globalization. Her flowered, yellow-and-blue headband matches both her trident-emblazoned flag and the dozens of others in the picture, while the bright red bag matches her coat and her hair, in a riot of RYB primaries.

Looking behind her, there are hundreds of people gathered at the protest site. Some are rapt paying attention to the speaker on the Euromaidan stage, while others are having discussions among themselves. Banners and flags adorn the background, as do key near-Maidan structures. The large pedestal in the background is the base of the Independence Monument, a symbol of Ukrainian independence that became the physical nucleus of the Euromaidan protests. Behind it is Hlobus (Globe), a huge shopping mall. In the upper-left, more visible in this non-cropped version of the photo, is the 19th-century October Palace, (re)named after the Soviet October Revolution. During the early years of the Soviet Union, it housed the state security force, later known as the KGB. The execution of an estimated 120,000 people were reported to have occurred within the Palace walls. After the fall of the Soviet Union, its name changed again, but most people still use the old name.

The bridge between Hlobus and the Palace is shown draped with banners with the messages "East and West together" (emphasizing the desire to have close ties with both the EU and Russia) and "Keep out motorcades!" (due to the street below being barricaded). This street is Ulitsa Institutskaya, named after the Palace when the buidling was first constructed as the home of the Institute of Noble Maidens, an Imperial Russian finishing school. The street, which in Soviet times was named "October Revolution Street," was renamed again eight months after this photo was taken. It is now called, "Heavenly Hundred Heroes Alley," after those killed in the violence. This particular street being renamed in this manner is significant, since many of the dead were killed on the street itself, shot by snippers from that bridge and from the hill on which the October Palace — by then occupied by protesters — stands. It's yet another tragic historical echo in Moscow's continued attempts to control Ukraine. By the time I took this photo, however, hope and freedom had triumphed over tragedy and subjugation. Let's hope this continues.

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