Published on February 26, 2014 | by Matteo Besana


Ukrainian student: ‘I held a dying man in my hands’

Man stand by fire in the centre of kiev

The protests started in November 2013 after President Viktor Yanukovich’s EU ‘U-turn’. [Flickr: Sasha Maksymenko]

More than 70 protesters, including students and lecturers, have been killed during protests in the Ukrainian capital Kiev following the recent political uprising.

The ongoing demonstrations began in November 2013 and saw students walk out of universities and march through the city to join several thousand other protesters calling for the Ukrainian president to resign.

The revolution was sparked by President Viktor Yanukovich’s EU ‘U-turn’, in which he rejected an agreement for greater integration with the European Union and instead accepted the offer of a $15 billion ‘bailout’ from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Paul Vickers, a British lecturer and pro-European blogger who teaches at the university of Ivano-Frankivsk in Ukraine, spoke about his involvement with the Ukrainian movement:

“My first ‘action’ was to write to my students to explain to them that these protests were likely to escalate and define the fate of their generation. They would thus be free from any classes if they wanted to participate in protests on any side.”

He added: “When the first protests started in Ivano-Frankivsk, the day after the decision not to sign the EU Association Agreement, I was among the crowd each day listening to speeches, presentations etc.”

“With my wife, we called the fire brigade when the Security Service building was set on fire in the city. We also tried negotiating with masked youths throwing Molotov cocktails.”


However, the demonstrations have been fraught with violence and Ukraine is now lamenting the death of protesters such as Bohdan Solchanyk, a 29-year-old lecturer at Ukrainian Catholic University, who was killed at Independence Square in Kiev on February 20.

More than 70 protestors, including students and lecturers, were killed during the demonstrations. [Flickr: Sasha Maksymenko]

On the previous day, one Ukrainian student, @Mira_mp, had tweeted: “I held a dying guy in my hands: his head and belly were shot through. I will never forget this night.”

Oleg Akhtyrskyi, the Kiev representative for the Oxford University Ukraine Society, said: “The past few months have changed us all. It was the first bloodshed in the modern history of Ukraine. Not everyone supported the protesters, but I am confident that no one was indifferent.”

Sofiya Kvasha, a Ukrainian student who lives in Kiev and studied journalism at London College of Communication, spoke to Arts London News about the growing feeling of disillusionment with regards to Ukrainian politics:

“Some people are still on the barricades and not too hurried to break them down, as the level of belief in the politicians is low.”

Uncertain future

Kvasha, who had to move out of her flat in central Kiev for security reasons, thinks that even if the pro-Russian government is out of the picture, the future for Ukraine is still very uncertain.

She added: “It can’t be worse than [the] Yanukovich government, though its too chaotic now and absolutely impossible to make any adequate conclusion. However, ideologically I feel this change is positive.”

Though supposedly ousted in a coup, Yanukovich is still refusing to step down and is thought to have sought refuge in the Russian-speaking eastern part the country.

Vickers concluded: “What will be forgotten in the history books is how everyday life carried on even while people were being shot, buildings were burning, and the president was escaping.”


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3 Responses to Ukrainian student: ‘I held a dying man in my hands’

  1. Justice for all says:

    This article is yet another evidence that Europeans played a no small importance role in escalation of the conflict. This pro-European bigot Paul Vickers sent his students straight into the center of the conflict instead telling them to keep calm and carry on studying. Surely, at least some of the students would have stayed at homes with their parents or so. But Vickers just sent them to the death match, he said: “My first ‘action’ was to write to my students to explain to them that these protests were likely to escalate and define the fate of their generation. They would thus be free from any classes if they wanted to participate in protests on any side.”

    I just wonder if any of his students died in Kiev and their death-agony gave Vickers inspiration for a couple of pro-European posts in his blog. This article is such a disgrace, guys… And warmongering ‘mad professor’ Paul Vickers should be isolated from students and banned from teaching for good.

    • Paul Vickers says:

      Whoever the above, anonymous commentator is should check the context of what words of mine have been used, when they were spoken, as should the author of this article.
      I have never had any contact with this particular author, but someone else who works on this paper.
      The “action” I suggested related to events in November, when the protests were just starting. I would never be irresponsible enough to encourage my students to travel to Kyiv when the mass violence started. My comments do not relate to February events.

  2. Paul Vickers says:

    And to be sure, none of my students died in Kyiv. I did not teach Roman Huryk nor did I have any contact with him, although he did study at the university I teach at.
    The situation in November and December, when I encouraged students to leave behind any passivity that can prevail, was one of civil revolution against a corrupt and unpopular government, with protests passing in the city largely peacefully.
    Indeed, it is often role of academics in times of upheaval to side with the status quo – see the situation in 1968 around Europe – although the situation in Ukraine, with which the anonymous commentator above is unfamiliar with, was very different in the final weeks of 2013 and early 2014.

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