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When I first arrived in Kyiv on a mid-November evening, the capital city of Ukraine was exactly as I had remembered it from my trip six years ago. It was a busy metropolis, with lights, cars and people all rushing past me.
Ukraine is a place I will always jump at the chance to go to. It is a place that always feels familiar and far. I was born in Canada, but grew up with Ukrainian parents, who taught me to love and be proud of my roots.
As protests began to grip the capital when the government halted talks for a landmark trade and partnership deal with the European Union, people began to talk of a revolution. On the last planned night of the protests, police used force to disperse peaceful protestors, leaving many injured. As people woke up that morning to the news, everyone realized – that could have been me or my brother or my mother or my child.
The next day, hundreds of thousands poured onto the streets in protest. Independence Square was re-occupied and the feeling of so many people in one place, united by one feeling was incredible.
I decided I couldn’t leave the country at such an important time in its history and stayed in Independence Square. I saw the heart of Kyiv turn into it’s own micro-city, where everyone had a role and worked together to keep each other safe and warm and fed. People from all corners of Ukraine came to Independence Square to express their unwillingness to live with a corrupt regime. But after two months of standing peacefully with little acknowledgment from the government, there was only so much people could take. As one man in the square put it to me anecdotally:
“How much water could this helmet hold? Maybe one litre.”
“But after that, it will start to overflow.”