The European Space has been keeping a close watch over activities in support of Euromaidan. There were a lot of them, all the world lived and continue living by Ukraine. Don’t you agree, how powerful the support of Ukrainian diaspora is, which not only follows the events, but in a creative way and by real deeds compels the attention of international community towards events in Ukraine and helps Maidan. Nataliya Schapeler, a political scientist and a co-founder of “Euromaidan Guard in Berlin”, told us how exactly Ukrainians of Germany act.
How and under which circumstances was the idea of your activities born?
Ukrainians of Berlin together with human right defenders starting from November 2013 has been carrying out a constant work in Berlin regarding events on Maidan and in Ukraine. The idea to rally our common efforts within the initiatives and attract more not indifferent people to our activities came up during carrying out the actions in Berlin and in the view that at that time (November – December) the information in German media was very limited, both in quality and quantity.
Being in a constant contact with our relatives and friends in Ukraine our main goal was to become the voice of Ukrainians, to bring their aspirations and feelings, by giving information from the first hands.
Within the initiative, and on the base of current challenges and tasks, the working groups were created. Nowadays our main job consists from:
· Guarding/ constant picketing by volunteers of our initiative, at first near the Ukrainian and now also near the Russian embassies. This gives the possibility of direct contact with Ukrainians in Berlin so that everybody, either Berliners or guests of the city, who has a question concerning the recent events in Ukraine, could get an answer. This guarding, as other ways of our volunteer work, is an expression of the solidarity with Ukrainians.
· Organization of demonstrations and other mass measures with the aim of expressing our civil position regarding events in Ukraine and solidarity with all those in Ukraine, who defend the citizen rights for the self-determination and the democratic development of their country. Under “our” we mean everybody who cares about destiny of Ukraine, the direction of its development, situation with human rights and so on.
· Informational and explanation work, which include: communication with press, interviews, carrying out the press-conferences, writing the press releases, taking part in initiatives by volunteers, who possess a respective expertise, in podium discussions; review/analyzes of press in Germany and writing disproofs/petitions regarding the given information in the case if there are some manipulation of facts or the information is false etc.
· Work with wounded, who came to Germany for the treatment; moral and technical support for wounded;
· Human rights defending and anticorruption work;
· Collecting money for the families of dead, for the needs of wounded, who are now on treatment in Berlin;
· And the last, but not the least point of work: writing the blog of Euromaidan Guard Berlin www.euromaidanberlin.wordpress.com
What kind of atmosphere concerning the events exists in particular in Berlin (how it was changing)?
Berlin is the city, where traditional and alternative exists nearby, the city is multinational and very active, in cultural and political sense. And this is, of course, the influence the informativeness of the population, their openness, ability to perceive and analyze.
Therefore the matter of events in Ukraine had its place in the informational space, though at the beginning it was quite a small and peripheral, and the information itself was from journalists who mostly cover events being in Warsaw or in Moscow. This situation has changed during the escalation of the conflict.
Almost 9000 Ukrainians live in Berlin. For a lot of them the Rubikon was crossed after first people died on the Maidan. Therefore then our demonstrations started to have mass character, the amount of people, who expressed their wish to act in helping the people on the Maidan, grew bigger.
There were around 40 different measures concerning the events in Ukraine in the last two months in Berlin.
This indicates the concern about what is happening in our country, about the wish to clarify and understand. But this doesn’t mean at all, that the understanding of what is happening is a general one, and the interest is present at all the levels of the society. It would be a false assumption. Besides, one can’t ignore a wide propagandist work, which is led by Russia as well as in all Germany and in Berlin particularly.
What kind of work have you managed to perform already?
Since November 2012 more than 20 demonstrations have been organized; letters to the government of Germany have been prepared; a number consulting meetings with the deputies of Bundestag took place; we write a blog Euromaidan Guard Berlin, where we try to present differentiated position regarding events on Maidan and the situation in Ukraine, in general, in the German and English languages; our volunteers take part in translation of materials from Ukrainian to German; we answer the constant requests of press and give the interviews; our volunteers take care of the wounded, who came to Berlin for the treatment, visit them regularly, interpret as well as translate all needed medical documentation.
We took part in podium discussions regarding the events in Ukraine, which were organized by Deutsche Welle (TV), Heinrich Böll Stiftung, MitOst Verein, and University of Berlin and so on.
We prepared and submitted three requests for opening criminal cases against Deutsche Bank for their co-operation and help in money laundering of Oleksandr Yanukovitsh’ bank.
We took part in preparations of the press-conference Euromaidan SOS in Berlin.
Our last event was a charity concert “Berlin for Maidan”, and our next one is the co-organisation with the International Renaissance Foundation in Ukraine, Kiev Dialogues and the Schwarzkopf-Foundation a podium discussion in Berlin, which took place at the beginning of April.
There is a lot of work to do. But there are not enough resources, because all this is managed by volunteers, who apart taking part in our initiative, work full-time in other places or study at the universities.
Your last event took place this week. Please, tell us more about it
On the 23 of March in the studio “Ya” of Maxim Gorki Theater took place a charity concert with such artists like Wolodymyr Kaminer (with music from Rot Front), Katya Petrovska, Yuriy Hurzhy, Daniel Kan, Martin Khyun, Maryna Frenk, Volodymyr Sergijenko, Svitlana Kundish, Sasha Lurye, a la Trio, Illya Alabuzhev, Vernes Berbo.
This event, the organizer of which was Euromaidan Guard Berlin, is the manifestation of our countless solidarity with the wounded and with the families of dead during the events on Maidan. For every participant and organizers of the concert it was important to show the unindifference regarding the critical stage in Ukraine. It was expressed in the announcement of the concert as follows:
“We will not observe inactively, just because the situation in the country seems ununderstable from the first sight. We will not allow hanging tags on us and be used by any political power. We gather donations for people. For the victims of tortures and violence during the time on the Maidan. For the families of dead.”
This is maybe because Maidan is not only a square in the heart of the Ukrainian capital. Maidan is all us who care about what is happening in Ukraine. One must say that the events in Ukraine made us closer to each other. We, Ukrainians, who live in Berlin, and also representatives of other nationalities, express our solidarity to the citizens of Ukraine, who need our help now as never before. And this concert, as I said before, is one of the ways to spread this message.
The guards of Euromaidan – who are they?
We try to cover a wider range of public. This regards both the volunteers of our initiative, and as well Berlin’s citizens, because our activity is so diverse. Not for everybody the format of a demonstration is acceptable. But these people sincerely help wounded people by reading to those who are in coma.
By her own initiative one of our volunteers created a memory alley in front of Ukrainian embassy, so everybody who pass by the street could, at least for a while, while watching these bright faces, realize all the tragedy, which occur in 2 hours flight from Berlin.
Also our charity concert, thanks to the cooperation with the studio “Ya” of Maxim Gorki Theater and thanks to the Russian speaking artists, who have a huge amount of fans among the emigrants from Russia, had a decent resonance and caused an ambiguous discussion in Internet and beyond it as well. Because the idea that there are “banderovtsi, fascists, extremists” in Kiev and Russia has a historical right regarding Ukraine exists not only among citizens of Ukraine.
These myths are being spread also outside of the Russian Federation. Therefore, as I said, there is a lot and a lot of work to do.
Translation by Zhanna Mylogorodska