Parma native witnesses Ukraine protests firsthand (slideshow at source)

Jan 3rd, 2014 | By | Category: News, Politics, Ukraine, Ukrainians Worldwide, USA

By Brian Byrne, Northeast Ohio Media Group

PARMA, Ohio – Roxy Toporowych grew up immersed in Parma’s prominent Ukrainian community, attending the former St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic School, going to weekly Saturday school sessions at the church and participating in Ukrainian dance classes.

“We did everything Ukrainian,” she said. “My siblings and I were raised in this very uber-Ukrainian world.”

Now working in the film industry, the Normandy High School graduate in December witnessed firsthand what could prove a defining moment in Ukrainian history, joining the thousands of demonstrators in Kiev’s Independence Square protesting President Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign an agreement strengthening the country’s ties with the European Union and acceptance of an economic bailout from Russia.

Based in New York City, Toporowych is the program director for the American Independence Film Festival in Kiev, the Ukraine capital. Last month’s festival had been booked for nearly a year when the demonstrators began converging on the square – known locally as Maidan – and while there were talks of cancelling, plans proceeded as scheduled following clearance by the U.S. Embassy, she said.

Toporowych said what immediately struck her about the scene at Maidan was the peaceful atmosphere among the demonstrators, who have erected a tent village in the square and number in the tens of thousands at any given time.

“You think it’s city-wide, and total craziness. But it’s pretty controlled and extremely organized,” she said.

Demonstrators have constructed barricades out of any available materials to keep government security forces out of the area, with military veterans serving as an additional line of protection along the protest headquarters’ borders, Toporowych said. Warm clothing, food and first-aid supplies are efficiently distributed to the crowd, which takes turns sleeping in the government administration buildings now under their control.

“It’s really like a well-oiled machine,” Toporowych said of the movement.

Toporowych said the demonstrators are of all ages and walks of life; she became friends with a group of lumberjacks during her nine days in Kiev. However, she said they stand united toward a common goal.


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