Monday, February 24, 2014

heroim slava - a hero's funeral

“Slava Ukraina! Heroim slava!” These days, Ukraine’s heroes are Euromaidan’s martyrs. Among them, 48 year old Afghanistan war veteran, Oleksandr Shcherbaniuk. He was from Chernivtsi and like many others from different regions around Ukraine he went to support the revolution in Kiev’s Independence Square. And like too many others, he was killed. Shot in the heart on February 20.
For people in Ukraine and especially for people in his home town, he is a hero: a man who fought and died defending his countrymen’s rights and freedom, his children’s future and Ukraine’s honor.  That’s why thousands of co-nationals came to his wake, paying respects to his widow and two children, and thousands walked him on his final journey.
At least 77 people died in Kiev on February 20 and 21, following a short-lived truce, killed by the order of their democratically elected president. As news come from the capital, with President Viktor Yanukovych fleeing office and being dismissed by MPs on Saturday, Yulia Timoshenko released, the police having sworn allegiance to the opposition, the return to the 2004 constitution and early elections set for May 25 this year, their deaths seem not to have been in vain. Oleksandr Shcherbaniuk’s death may not have been in vain.
But the fight is not over. Euromaidan is not going home yet. With the Orange Revolution in their recent past, Ukrainians are skeptical. They do not want another revolution stolen from them. They do not want to swap the colors of politicians and end up with the same corrupted system and the same oligarchs in charge. Euromaidan is staying to oversee the establishment of a professional and fair interim government. 
The crucial phase of the Ukrainian revolution is just beginning.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

no place for the roma

This photo story was commissioned by Al Jazeera

In September 2013, local authorities in Eforie Sud, a beach town in the south-east of Romania, evicted 78 Roma from their houses. Accommodations were built illegally on a city hall property and after decades of living there the Roma lost their entire livelihood. 33 children and 45 adults were left literally standing in the rain. The Romanian Ombudsman accused local authorities of completely ignoring human rights legislation. Although the eviction itself was legal, city hall failed to provide decent accommodation for the Roma families. Eventually, the Roma took refuge in an abandoned school and an old dormitory (boarding school). Several families are still living in cottages in the field. The mayor of Eforie Sud had called the eviction a “long overdue cleanup operation, a problem that had been ignored for too long” and promises were made that the cleared land would be used to build social housing units.
Five months from the eviction, February 2014, the 78 Roma live in dire conditions that, at best, could be considered “sub-standard”. March this year, they face eviction from these facilities as well. Threats have been issued by authorities that they would be evacuated as soon as spring temperatures set in. No mentions were made about any alternative accommodation.
The story in Eforie Sud is not an exception, but rather a symptom of a bigger problem in Romania and the entire European Union. Just in June 2012, 1000 Roma from Baia Mare were forcefully evacuated from their homes and moved into a former chemical plant. 13 children and one adult suffered intoxications and needed medical care.
Estimates show that around a million Roma live in Romania and the minority faces constant discrimination. Their lives are plagued by difficult access to health care and education, high unemployment rates and general scorning. EU funds for Roma integration sum up to tens of millions of Euros, but countries like Romania fail to attract them. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday, December 15, 2013

#euromaidan - the ukrainian winter

the square

“The revolution in Independence Square doesn't feel like a sprint, like in 2004, but rather like a marathon. It's a war of stamina”. This is how one Ukranian independent journalist describes the events happening these days in the so called Euromaidan, downtown Kiev. Tens of thousands of people gather each day to demand the resignation of President Viktor Ianukovych, the ousting of the government and early elections. On Sundays, demonstrations reach more than 200.000 participants.

The opposition is hoping that Mr. Ianukovych will make concessions under public pressure after he refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union although he negotiated the deal or the better part of it for the last three years.

Holding out in the tough Ukrainian winter would not be possible without the crucial life lines that supply protesters with food, blankets, warm clothing and hot beverages.

the strongholds

Andrei Andulkov is in his fifties. He came to Kiev from Cernauti a couple of days ago to take part in the Euromaidan Revolution and spends his nights in the International Center for Culture and Arts. The palace dedicated to the October Revolution, also known as Red October, has been taken over by protesters in Kiev and turned into one of the fuel cells of the Euromaidan protests. More than 2000 people are registered here and numbers keep growing. They sleep, eat, get blankets, warm clothing and medical care in this superb neoclassical building.

The International Center for Culture and Arts is one of three buildings protesters took over in Kiev and turned into the crucial supply system that keeps this “war of stamina” alive. The central command is located in the Trade Unions building, where opposition leaders proclaimed the headquarters of the National Resistance. Besides a make shift press center, this building houses a giant kitchen where thousands of food packages go out to the protesters in the square and the central distribution of all supplies donated or bought through cash donations.
Kiev City Hall is by far the occupied building with the greatest symbolic significance. Protesters have barricaded entrances and turned it into a vital coordination and supply center. The Revolution HQ is controlled by a newly appointed city council of 1000 protesters and is a symbol of the right to self-determination of the Ukrainian people.

the guards
Andrei is a member of the so called “guards”. His mission and that of all the protesters camping in the International Center for Culture and Arts is to block government buildings in Kiev and prevent the normal activity of the President, the Government and the Parliament. The standoff between protesters and security forces goes on 24 hours a day at the Presidential Palace. The other two public buildings are blocked for 12 hours a day. He is a veteran of the Orange Revolution from 2004 and determined to stay here “until the end”. The end is the resignation of President Viktor Ianukovych, the dismissal of the Government and the organization of early elections in Ukraine. 

the police 

and the statue of Lenin... down

Some of my photos from the protests in Kiev have also been featured on Al Jazeera.