Happy New Year! I’m sure everyone reading this by now has grown tired of hearing those words and accepted and put behind them another New Year celebration. Although ringing in 2015 was especially special for us (the two of us on a train to Fenghuang with a bottle of champagne) I came to think about how we celebrated last year bringing in 2014 on the Revolutionary Maidan in Ukraine and all that has changed since then for the country we celebrated in whilst we brought that New Year. It has been one of my most favourite New Year celebrations I’ve ever partaken in.
The Atmosphere and the Celebrations on Maidan for NY 2014
We were in Ukraine, visiting Kiev and Chernobyl. It was in the middle of the campaign for the ousting of the then current President and what was depicted on international news as a ‘freedom camp’ was looking more like a festival ground. There was beer being sold and people dressed up as Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus walking around for a photo op. It was amazing to see history take place in a country right in front of your eyes. There wasn’t a feeling of anger or violence in the air but instead a sense of community and celebration; so naturally we chose the Maidan as the place we would be partying at for New Year’s. We stopped at one of the kiosks and loaded up on a few beers to drink and a kebab to eat. We were ready to party! So we took our food and drinks over to the centre of the Maidan.
We arrived at the centre of the Maidan about one hour before the New Year was to begin. We were not the only ones to decide to spend New Year’s here all over people locals were coming into the square to celebrate. On stage were speakers for Ukrainian freedom and a Priest blessing the camp including all of those who were in it. The square filled up fast and next thing we knew we were in a massive, throbbing crowd. We were stuck inside the square and there was no getting out until the new year had begun. You could feel the expectations from everybody was running high and everyone was in good cheer. Laser lights were displayed on all the buildings surrounding the Maidan and a large television was set up so that everyone could see what was happening on the main stage. Everyone knew this would be the only time they would ever see their city centre set up in a functioning anarchic state as there was no police to control the crowd which wasn’t a problem.
It was finally time for the ball to drop. Large numbers counting down the seconds displayed on the oversized LED screen. Everybody was counting down the seconds in their own language.5…4…3…2…1…Happy New Year!!!! I turned to Iulia for a personal congratulation and a kiss. The beer I had been drinking earlier was doing a good job keeping my face feeling warm and my spirits cheery. 2014 had begun.
After leaving Maidan
A few days later, we left Kiev for good and went home. We hadn’t even finished unpacking our bags from the trip when we saw on television screens everywhere broadcasting violence that had broken out upon the square we had recently celebrated on. It broke our hearts to see the many people who were on the Maidan celebrating, hoping for freedoms and a happier future had become engaged in a bloody battle with police. The fierce defiance maintained by the protesters won them the battle on the Maidan and in the government but ultimately locked their country into the civil war which continues on today.