Voices of the Revolution: survivors Kuznetsov & son

Image“We didn’t even recognize ourselves in that photo” (Eyewitness interview).

The photo published by Agence France-Presse news agency showing the atrocities of Berkut riot police, hit the headlines in Europe and the United States. On February 20, 2014, a newspaper “Fakty” [Facts] in Kyiv published this photo on their front page. Two residents of Kyiv – the bloodied father and son – have become one of the symbols of the rebellious Maidan.

Mykola Kuznetsov, a Doctor of Science, Corresponding Member of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and Laureate of the State Prize in Science and Technology, and his 27-year-old son Ihor, also a science post-graduate, were brutally beaten on Instytutska Street in Kyiv on February 18th, 2014. They agreed to tell the shocking details of the event in this exclusive interview with “FAKTY.”

“Special forces were rapidly advancing, and Ihor and I got cornered from all sides.” 

We talked with Mykola Kuznetsov and his family at his home. The Professor lives very modestly, his whole apartment is almost completely filled with books, from floor to ceiling.

– The “Orange Revolution” and its promise of change disappointed people a lot – says the 59-year-old Mykola Kuznetsov, a professor of the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute and a former lecturer at universities in Sweden, England and Germany. We were cheated – at the end no one called the bandits to responsibility. And when Yanukovych arrived, the corruption in the country increased, draconian laws were adopted and the remnants of democracy were finished off. There seemed to be no way out of the current situation. I was sure people would obey the lawlessness. Now I’m very glad that I was wrong.

The first signal that things are changing appeared when the students went to Maidan to support European integration last November. My family was shocked by the brutal beating of those kids just for the fact that they wished to live in a European country. Since then we have been visiting Maidan together with my son and my wife, supporting the protest of thousands of people who didn’t want to endure the humiliation any longer.

It was nice on Maidan, we felt united there. Nobody was interested in your work place or your position in society, everyone was equal. With only one desire – to live in a European country, without corruption and bribery.

– At the beginning, I let my dear men go there with calm, I was sure that the authorities no longer dare to disperse peaceful demonstrators – admits Mykola’s wife, 56-year-old Alla Shumskaya, associate professor of the Kiev Polytechnic Institute. When the situation on the Maidan began to deteriorate, I tried to forbid my son and my husband from going there. But my husband said: “Twenty-year old kids are resisting the totalitarian regime, so I can’t sit quietly at home.”

– What happened to you on February 18th? – we ask Mykola Kuznetsov.
– On that day, together with my son, we went, as usual, to the university. On the Maidan you could feel the anxiety since early morning, because everything seemed to fail. We called home, that we’re leaving work earlier. When the time came, we returned home, had a snack and changed clothes for some old ones. Some time before, in a battle with Berkut, I tore the sleeve of a new jacket and my wife got quite angry.


We came to Instytutska Street a few minutes before the attack. Everything was quiet so far, so we slowly came closer to the people. Suddenly, the attack of security forces began and Maidan activists rushed back. People were stumbling and falling. Security forces were advancing rapidly and we got squeezed from all sides, me and Igor. Each of the commandos running by was trying to hit us at least a couple of times with his truncheon. They didn’t have the rubber truncheons but the plastic ones, which have much more powerful blow. We were brutally beaten on the shoulders, the kidneys, but they were mainly aiming at the head.

Later on, it turned out that the demonstrators were not only beaten but also shot at. The doctors, during their examination of Mykola Kuznetsov and his son, found wounds made by rubber bullets.

I was afraid to lose my son in the crowd and so I was holding his hand tight – continues Mr. Mykola – We were running, holding each other’s hand, while they were beating us all the time. Blood was pouring from the wounds, but it seemed to only encourage Berkut more. We managed to hold on for some fifty meters on our feet. When we passed by some platform, they knocked us to the ground and beat us more, not only with truncheons, but also by kicking.

And yet it turned out that we fell down in a good place. Although my eyes were covered with blood, I saw two meters away from me a shallow cellar entrance. I then gave my son a sign to crawl there. Berkut was running by, peering into the cellar, but to hit us, they would have to sidetrack. I do not know how it would have ended for us, if that sheltered place was not there.

“A woman left from one of the buildings, made us hide in the entrance, and told us to wait until everything settles.”

– When it got quiet, we came out of the shelter – continues Mykola Kuznetsov. We noticed a Berkut member – he ordered us to show him the contents of our pockets, explaining that he was interested in weapons. I had just a couple of subway tokens, nothing else. Igor pulled out his watch, but he was too weak to put it back. Then we saw a Colonel of the Special Forces, who told us where we could find an ambulance. But we decided to ignore his care. Everybody knew that there were special trucks near most of the hospitals with security forces waiting to capture Maidan activists. We tried to leave that dangerous place through the courtyards. That’s how we met the medical volunteers, who gave us first aid and bandaged our heads. Neither me nor my son had the strength to go, we were barely moving. Fortunately, a woman from one of the houses in the neighborhood noticed us. She led us hide in the entrance and told us to wait until everything settles. There has been some two dozen beaten people. It must be said that “titushki” were passing just after Berkut, looking to get on to the wounded.

So that unknown woman did a good deed hiding all those people. We are very grateful to her, I wish I had asked her name then. May God protect her.

Two hours later, when the street was more or less calm, Mykola Kuznetsov called his wife.
– Mykola said that they were all right, they were hiding in one of the houses and will come home soon – recalls Alla Antonovna. – But I felt that something wrong happened. Our dog was behaving in a strange way, she was whining piteously and going from room to room. I turned on the TV and saw how Berkut beat the protestors. I immediately called a taxi to bring my husband and my son back home. Once the taxi operators heard the address, they all refused to accept the order. “Do you know what is going on there? – they were asking – Would you send your son there?” I was answering, “Girls, little beloveds, I agree to any fee, my husband and son are in danger, you need to take them home.” However, they all categorically refused.

In desperation I went outside, and not knowing what to do, I started walking in search of some car. Finally a private taxi driver agreed to go. Because of the huge traffic jams, we barely managed to reach the place where my husband and son were waiting. It was already dark outside, so I did not immediately see what state they are both in. Happy to see them alive, I hugged them and noticed that… I was sticking to them. Their whole clothes were flooded with sticky blood! Only then I saw that they had bandaged heads, and that my husband’s arm was hanging, still. They were both barely standing on their feet.
At home, as it turned out with Mykola and Igor, that everything hurts them – they could neither sit nor stand nor lie down. Their whole body ached, aching ribs, buzzing head.

I was afraid to call an ambulance, so I decided that in the morning I would take them to a doctor – a friend of mine. And for the moment, I took care of the wounds on my own.

Don’t panic, no matter what happens, I was once taught while training in parachuting. I faced bruises and broken bones, but my coach once taught me not to whine, not to be afraid, not to lose my temper. It turned out to be really very useful in life.


“People didn’t fight in vain, the change will come.”

Mykola Kuznetsov had his head beat in two places, doctors had to put ten stitches on it. In addition, his scapula was broken, so his shoulder is now plastered. Igor also got his part – he had stitches on his head in three places. They have shoulders that are black and blue from beating, as well as some traces left from rubber bullets. They are slowly recovering now.

– Do you remember being photographed on Maydan?
– I remember that someone clicked – says Ihor Kuznetsov. – The same evening, when the photo appeared on the Internet, our friends started calling, to ask how we are feeling and whether we need any help.

– We didn’t immediately recognize ourselves on the photo, me and my son – says Mykola Kuznetsov. – I remember it was very hard to go, my beaten body was aching terribly, aching ribs, eyes flooded with blood. We supported each other to keep from falling. We had to go through…

Now it’s clear that people were not fighting in vain and change will come. But the victory was very expensive.

Lenina Bychkovska, “FACTS”, Olexandra Bychkovska, exclusively for “FACTS”
March 4, 2014 National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
Translated by Paweł Łapiński
Edited by Voices of Ukraine
Source: Repost http://archeos.org.ua/?p=2813 , original source: http://fakty.ua/

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